Charitique.com Assists Ailing Children, Providing Help In Ways Big and Small
By Jennifer Peacock 2015
They were at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia for their own granddaughter who was fighting an aggressive form of leukemia when another little girl caught their eye. Her cancer had ravaged her vocal chords and could now only talk with an electrolarynx. She walked the hallways with an intravenous pole, alone. Curious, they asked about her. Her parents had another child at home; one parent had already lost a job because of the time away from work.
Laura Reina and her family knew what they had to do.
Back in 2012, Laura and her daughter, Crystal Roberto, started Charitique.com, an online boutique where portions of sales went to different charities where the bulk of funds went toward research, not salaries. The boutique sells women’s apparel, jewelry and accessories among other items. The boutique was briefly abandoned when Crystal’s daughter, Angelina, was diagnosed at age 2 with Philadelphia Positive Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). But Laura’s husband and Jackson Township mayor, Michael Reina, urged her to restart the charity work again.
“A year after we opened [Charitique], our granddaughter was diagnosed… I closed down the website because of the stress. I couldn’t think clearly enough to do the business on my own. But my husband said, ‘You really need to start the business up again. Your granddaughter needs people like you to help her get through this disease.’”
And so she did. In 2013, Laura formed a separate legal entity, the 501c3 nonprofit and volunteer-run Inches of Hope Childrens Cancer Foundation formerly The Charitique Foundation. 100% of Charitique.com’s profits go to the foundation. Seeing how much support her own family received from family, friends, employers, and the community, it really bothered Laura to see others struggling.
She spoke of the little girl in the hospital. “Her parents are not able to come because they have a younger child had home, one parent lost a job because there were here too much and were afraid to come here too much. Isn’t that horrible? You have to be worried about losing your job when your children is in hospital and just had surgery.”
The foundation gives 90% percent of its money directly to families whose children are being treated for catastrophic illnesses such as cancer. They also coordinate fundraisers as well as provide outings, parties, and even Christmas presents for the children and their families. They are currently assisting about 15 families from Jackson Township and elsewhere.
“They have been nothing but amazing throughout this whole ordeal,” Lisa Ward of Middletown said. Her daughter, Bella, was diagnosed with leukemia at age 3. She will finish her treatment in late 2016/early 2017. “They have helped us on monthly basis, and every little bit helps. Big or small it all helps. It’s like a blessing.”
Bella is best friends with Avery Moskowitz, 5, whom she met at the hospital while both were receiving treatment. Avery was battling Neuroblastoma, but has been NED—no evidence of disease—since Summer 2013.
“Through this whole process, the outpouring of how people are still good in world has renewed faith in humanity,” Avery’s mom, Shara, said. Her sister, Dawn Egan, started volunteering six months before Avery was diagnosed, when she had no idea her little niece was ill.
“Now I help out with Charitique. I’ve learned to give back 10-fold of what I have been given,” Shara said.
Shara said she has also gained perspective through this life-altering challenge.
“All you can really do is live in the here and now, the only thing afforded from this is to live in the here and now. Of course you’re always going to wonder and stress, but you can’t give any extra energy, you can’t worry about these things, to not enjoy what you have, the time you have with your child. You never know. It’s a good thing and bad thing at the same time,” Shara said. “It has taught me to live in the here and now, but that underlying fear, it never goes away.”
For the Reinas and Robertos, Angelina has been in treatment for 2.5 years; although her leukemia is one of the most treatable, a mutation in her genes that requires that the mutated gene be eliminated, or else the leukemia will come back. She has four more treatments, but Laura said progress has halted.
“Every four weeks we go in for treatment, test it in the blood. It’s been the same for a very long time. That’s the part that is upsetting. We don’t want it to stay the same, we want it to go away,” Laura said. But that doesn’t deter Angelina from wanting to go to her preschool class after treatments.
“This is her first year in school. She loves it. She’s very shy around people. She is in a nursery school in Howell. She goes Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. She loves it,” Laura said. “She goes every fourth Monday to CHOP, and she will say on her way back, ‘Can I go to school today? I feel fine.’ She doesn’t want anything to keep her back.”
For more information, search “Inches of Hope” (formerly The Charitique Foundation) on Facebook.