CHaD Ambassadors. Young but Mighty Voices. CHaD’s Youth Advocates.
Ambassadors share firsthand all the great work CHaD is doing.Natalie Harrison, Director, Chad Community Relations
What is an ambassador? For participating CHaD families, it’s an opportunity to share stories, advocate for causes and make lasting friendships and legacies.
In 2014, the CHaD Ambassador program began as an extension of the CHaD Buddies program, as participating patients expressed eagerness to become more active CHaD campaigners. Currently, there are approximately 100 ambassadors who voluntarily speak on behalf of CHaD patients and families at donation recognition and fundraising events, serve as table decoration judges at the annual Storybook Ball, and throw the first pitch or drop the puck at CHaD's Battle of the Badges baseball and hockey events. They are the “face and heart” of CHaD.
“Ambassadors share firsthand all the great work CHaD is doing,” says Natalie Harrison, director, CHaD Community Relations. “By sharing their voice they help us build a connection between our community and CHaD.”
Eight-year-old Elliot Perry was this year’s Battle of the Badges Hockey Ambassador, but it wasn’t his first time cheering for CHaD. Elliot has participated as a buddy for the Battle of the Badges hockey and baseball games, the All-Star Football Game and was named one of U.S. Cellular’s “16 Under 16” in April 2019 for raising over $100,000 for CHaD.
“Elliot was born 25 weeks to term. He was at CHaD for 121 days and had several surgeries. Without the care we received, Elliot wouldn’t be here today. We wanted to give back to the place that gave us our son,” says Carrie Perry.
Avery Forestall, an 18-year-old cancer survivor, has been an active CHaD Ambassador since he was 6 years old. “I don’t think I would be the person I am now without the ambassador program,” he says. “It’s taught me public speaking skills, formed friendships and connected me to people who havemotivated me.”
Avery has become a familiar face at many CHaD events, in particular, the Warren Miller ski and snowboarding film screening. Inspired by this experience, Avery is working on his own documentary. “Thoughts and Prayers” highlights the experience of a child going through cancer treatment and its effect on the patient, family and those around them. “I am trying to ground the experience that these children go through—what it’s like for them day-to-day,” says Avery.
Maeghan and Luke Webster became ambassadors in 2018. They have been going to CHaD since Maeghan was pregnant with their now 3-year-old son, Finn. “We want to be a voice for CHaD, to build relationships in the community and let people know what CHaD does for children,” says Luke.
And it’s a great experience for Finn, CHaD's 2019 Kid HERO, the patient ambassador for the CHaD HERO fundraiser. Spending more time with the familiar faces from CHaD has made getting the care he needs a lot less scary and gives him the opportunity to interact with others.
Before there was an official CHaD Ambassador program, Kristen Xiggoros, a 15-year-old cancer patient, wanted to be a voice for others. “She’d say, ‘this girl’s family couldn’t buy her a new coat or that family couldn’t get here because they didn’t have snow tires,” says Kristen’s dad, John Xiggoros.
In memory of their daughter, who lost her cancer battle in 1997, Xiggoros and his wife, Patty (who passed away in 2017), founded “Kristen’s Gift,” a fund designated to assist pediatric cancer patients in need. The fund provides assistance in many forms, including funding for child life specialists, needs for CHaD patient rooms and financial assistance for families.
Kristen’s Gift wasn’t the only legacy Kristen left CHaD. Xiggoros has spread his compassion among many colleagues who have put together successful fundraisers, including a Baseball Dinner with baseball great Chris Carpenter, and the CHaD All- Star Football Game, started by Xiggoros’ longtime friend Nick Vailas.
“That’s what an ambassadorship is all about—being passionate about a cause and spreading that passion to others,” says Xiggoros. “You talk about it, you get involved and people can either donate resources, time or effort.”
Want to be a CHaD Ambassador?
Being involved is a great way to gain a support system. “You become close to many other families. Everyone at CHaD is such a big family, and that’s important when you’re going through something difficult,” says Carrie Perry. When asked why others should be an ambassador for CHaD, Elliot Perry says, “Just give something, anything. Give back to people and let them know you care.”
CHaD would love your help spreading the word. To find out more, contact Hanna Snyder at Hanna.E.Snyder@hitchcock.org or 603-308-2231.