One of the most difficult and emotional journeys parents can endure is learning that their child is facing a catastrophic illness. It is also extremely hard on other family members as well. But just this happened to Jennifer Tresh. Her darling daughter Elena was diagnosed with brain cancer at the tender age of four, and lost the battle just shy of her sixth birthday.
There are many fine organizations and medical facilities to help with the illness itself. But what of other types of support, such as providing understanding and attention to the ill child’s siblings, a support group for fathers, or financial support for treatment, birthday party’s or holidays? Jennifer recognized a need for the little extra assistance that could help children and their families in difficult times such as this. .
After years of personal struggle and wandering through the darkest depths of loss and sorrow, Jennifer has penned a book called Behind the Bars, which was due out on September 25, and will be available online at Barnes & Noble and Amazon.com to name a few, along with sales at book signings. Proceeds from the sale of the book will go directly to the Foundation she founded in memory of her daughter.
It was once Elena’s dream to somehow come back as a butterfly or a ladybug so she could put all the “bad, sick and tears” on the backs of their wings so the “sick kids, and the sad mommies and daddies” could watch them fly away. Her dream will soon become a reality…for the butterflies and ladybugs will soon become a tribute to a little girl’s wish.
Elena’s dream has become her mother’s vision. Jennifer Tresh set a plan in place to help others through some of the very things she herself had experienced. She visualized a place where children could find safe haven, where others like themselves could feel comfortable and accepted in their own skin, where parents could leave their ill child’s sisters and brothers during treatment times, a place for emotional and financial support could help those who had no where else to turn, where birthdays and holidays could be made happy again during times of duress in dealing with the day to day struggles. Finding renewed strength, in 2007 Jennifer Tresh established the not-for-profit Elena Tresh Foundation.
Jennifer’s vision of a building specially designed to cater to all those needs for young victims of catastrophic illness came a step closer to realization when the Foundation secured a parcel of land in Safety Harbor in 2009. The architectural firm of Cooper, Johnson and Smith designed the exterior facade and organized the interior. Construction should get underway sometime in the near future for completion by the end of 2011.
“Even though the building itself is still in the design phase, we currently add new services about every two months,” Jennifer says. That way, assistance is available now for families in need, and services will be in place when the building is complete.
One of the biggest upcoming events to help raise funds and awareness for the Foundation is “Snow Fest,” held each year at the Safety Harbor Baseball Park. This year’s event is scheduled for Saturday, Dec. 11. Over 50 tons of snow will be brought in to create a makeshift “Winter Wonderland,” complete with a snow slide!
“It’s affordable, family fun”, Jennifer says, adding, “It brings a little winter our way.” Tickets for the carnival-like atmosphere are reasonably priced, and attendees can expect a visit from Santa himself!
The “butterflies and ladybugs” will soon come to life in a building known as “Elena’s Place.” Learn more about the Foundation, services, events and other information at www.elenatresh.org.
By Toni Taylor for Destination Tampa Bay magazine
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