OCEAN CITY – While Mother’s Day is a special day for many families, this year was extra special for critically ill 3-year-old Destiny Sands’ family who received a getaway to Ocean City through the Casey Cares Foundation.
Destiny Sands, a Washington, D.C. native, is currently being treated at Georgetown University for Infantile Fibromatosis. While many days are spent at the hospital and doctors office, thanks to the Casey Cares Foundation, the Sands family spent Mother’s Day weekend making lasting memories in Ocean City.
The Casey Cares Foundation was founded by Casey Baynes in 2000 to provide ongoing, uplifting programs with a special touch to critically ill children and their families.
“I had been very active with volunteering in the hospitals putting together wishes for children, and I was participating in one wish when I heard this little boy say, ‘I wish I had cancer then I would get cool stuff too’, and I remember my heart sinking. I peeked over and saw a mom leaning over the little boy with tears streaming down her face. That was what started getting the wheels turning,” Baynes said. “I started talking to social workers and parents, asking what kids really need, what do kids really want, what do parents really want, and after taking informal surveys over a couple of months it was astonishing how much it wasn’t big wishes, it was little everyday things. A movie and pizza night was a really big thing that everybody wanted, and I said I can do that.”
Baynes husband, Mike, grew up in a family with three children diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that resulted in pancreatic transplants.
“He understood that often times the well child feels the ripples of the diagnosis, so it is important that they get just as much attention as the critically ill child. Casey Cares has always made that a priority that every child is a patient to Casey Cares, not just the critically ill one, and that makes us unique and different,” Baynes said.
Losing a brother herself, Baynes understands the impact of child’s death on a family.
“When a child dies, it changes your family forever, and with other organizations after a child passes away the family no longer qualifies, so when we did our guidelines we made sure we would cater to families after a child passes away by offering them the same programs,” Baynes said. “We have grown over the years from just having a movie and pizza night to having six full-fledged programs.”
Baynes began the Casey Cares Foundation with five Baltimore families. Since then the charity has grown to serving hundreds of families throughout Maryland, D.C., Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
Casey Cares programs range from bringing a child a birthday surprise whether it is at home, in school or in the hospital to family festivities that offers tickets to sports events, live shows, adventure parks and vacations.
Destiny Sands was born prematurely by C-Section at 34 weeks. Upon her arrival, her mother Evelyn noticed that she refused to place her right leg down. After many scheduled appointments, at 9 months old, it was discovered that Destiny had a condition called Infantile Fibromatosis.
Destiny Sands has two tumors located in her abdominal stomach that merge to her right leg and a tumor that presses on her right kidney. She has taken a variety of multiple rounds of chemotherapy in order to slow the growth of her tumors.
The Sands weekend vacation was set up through Casey Cares’ Celebration Vacation Program, and the family enjoyed numerous activities throughout the weekend, including a two-night stay at the Holiday Inn, passes to Old Pro Golf, dinner at the Sunset Grille and much more.
“I grew up with memories of going to the beach … it was an amazing getaway. That is what it is for families, to get away and just feel normal even if it is just for a weekend,” Baynes said. “The Sands family is probably going to have to cram in as many memories as they can in a very short time, so that is what their vacation was all about.”
Destiny Sands mother, Evelyn Sands, and her family was introduced to Casey Cares Foundation through social workers at Georgetown University. She said it was her daughter’s first chance to be at the beach.
“It was her [Destiny] first time going to the beach and feeling the sand. It was a perfect getaway, and now we are back to the reality of all these doctor appointments … it is extremely important to have a getaway because if you don’t have the time away you can start to lose yourself. Just having the chance to relax and breath is so good,” Evelyn Sands said
For more information on Casey Cares Foundation, or to find out how to get involved, visit www.caseycares.org.