A few people who care

Published 10:13 pm Monday, June 9, 2014

It would be hard to count up all the lives that have been positively impacted by Edmarc Hospice for Children. Founded in 1979, the organization surely has been a place of comfort for hundreds of families facing unimaginably terrible times.

Facing the prospect of a mortal illness like cancer is hard for any individual and for the family that loves him. But when the victim of a terminal illness is a child, the stress and grief can be unbearable, and the family can feel there is nowhere to turn for help and understanding.

Edmarc steps in to provide this desperately needed help to such families, and it has been doing so since its beginning as a group of Suffolk Presbyterian Church members who wanted to help a family whose 5-year-old son was suffering from a progressive neuromuscular disorder.

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When Joan and Dr. Allen Hogge were going through son Marcus’ illness, there was no place nearby that could care for him or even offer respite care so the Hogges could spend time alone or with their two daughters. The church rallied around the family, helping in any way it could.

Church members made a huge difference for the Hogge family. But it was the realization that there were far more families in Hampton Roads who experienced the kind of problems the Hogges had faced that made the biggest difference. That revelation led the church to pay for a needs assessment, to create Edmarc, to give it offices within the church building and to offer trained volunteers to help with respite care. The organization they started was the nation’s first hospice for children.

These days, Edmarc — which moved to Portsmouth when it ran out of space in the church — serves about 70 children in the clinical program and provides bereavement support to 164 families. The organization also runs an outreach bereavement program for children and teens who have lost anyone significant to them, whether or not the family was served by Edmarc.

Edmarc honored the Suffolk church’s foundational role in its history on Sunday with the dedication of a plaque telling a part of its history. The plaque is an appropriate memorial, as future generations of church members will always be reminded of the difference that can be made by a few people who really care.