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Devin D. Thorpe
Devin Thorpe

Friends of Karen Celebrates Four Decades of Hope

This is a guest post from Judith Factor, Executive Director of Friends of Karen

No parent is prepared to hear the words “your child has cancer.” One of the most daunting challenges parents must grapple with when their child has a life-threatening illness is the prospect of dealing with it alone. What would you do if it were you? Who would you turn to?

Families should not face their child’s life-threatening illness alone, and with Friends of Karen’s help, they don’t have to. Friends of Karen provides families with day-to-day necessities so that they can focus on what really matters: their children.

Friends of Karen is effective, efficient and impact in helping families. As Executive Director Judy Factor puts it: “we do what we say we are going to do, and we’re good at it.” While Friends of Karen cannot cure childhood illness, it can help save impacted families by keeping them together, stable and coping throughout the often rigorous and exhausting schedule of treating a child with a critical illness. Friends of Karen takes on the costs of whatever a family needs, ranging from saving homes from foreclosure to covering steep food and medical expenses.But it’s our collective experience, developed over the past 40 years and embodied in our dedicated team of social workers, that really sets us apart and has helped guide families through their illness journey.

We have been honored, humbled and inspired to see the impact of our work progress beyond our own Friends of Karen families. Many families who received support from Friends of Karen at one point in time end up giving back to the organization. Take, for instance, Paula Berkowitz, who tragically lost her husband and two children in less than a year in 2010. Paula, who had been supported by Friends of Karen throughout her daughter Adina’s battle against Leukemia, refused to lose hope after facing such adversity. She founded the Adina’s Angels Fund to give back to Friends of Karen. The fund has raised over $400,000 so far to support Friends of Karen families.

This year, we are celebrating 40 years of bringing help, hope and support to over 15,000 children in the Tri-State area with an Anniversary Celebration event. Friends of Karen will be joined by corporate sponsors and donors this November to honor their commitment to supporting our organization’s mission. Proceeds from our anniversary celebration will help relieve struggling families of the financial hardship of huge medical bills, enormous travel costs for daily hospital visits and mounting expenses for food, housing, childcare, sibling support and other necessities.

In the last 40 years, we have been continually motivated by the tangible impact our support services have had on the families we work with. And while we look forward to celebrating the past four decades, we are set on supporting our current and future families and look forward to the years to come. We hope that there will come a day when Friends of Karen is no longer needed – but until then, we’ll be here.

Judith Factor

About Judith Factor:

Judith Factor is the Executive Director of Friends of Karen, a non-profit organization that provides emotional, financial and advocacy support for children with a life-threatening illness and their families in order to help keep them stable, functioning, and able to cope. She joined friends of Karen in 2008, prior to which she served as Senior Vice President for External Affairs at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic for nine years.


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