Local nonprofit brings holiday cheer to families of young children with cancer

When you're an adult, the holidays can be a decidedly less magical time, when roads ice over, shopping malls crowd and your office runs a Secret Santa gift exchange. (Thinkstock)(Getty Images/iStockphoto/-slav-)
WASHINGTON — Festive holidays can be rough for families grappling with the illness of a loved one.

A local organization is collecting donations to spread some cheer to families who will spend the holidays with a sick child at Children’s National Health System.

“So this year, we are excited to celebrate our fifth annual Maddy Wagons of Hope,” said Brandi Garrett of The Maddy Wagon. “The idea behind that is for us to … be a light in a time of darkness.”

Garrett’s daughter, Madison, was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2012, when she was 3 years old. She’s 8 years old now, and has been in remission for three years. But the Garrett family understands how the spirits can sag when spending the holidays in the hospital, especially when a child is facing such a critical fight.

That’s why they continue collecting donations for other families in that fight.

Garrett told WTOP her co-workers formed The Maddy Wagon, a 501c3, in Madison’s honor.

“It started out as an organization just to help our family but it’s expanded, now that Madison is cancer-free, to help other families battling pediatric cancer,” Garrett said.

After Madison’s diagnosis, Garrett’s colleagues wanted to do something to help the family.

“And I said feel free to do whatever you feel compelled to do, I’m fine with that.”

Garrett thought they’d just have a fundraiser or prepare meals for the family.

“I remember being on the phone with them,” Garrett said.

She shared with them about the time period when Madison couldn’t walk because of the cancer.

“We would wheel her around the hospital in a Radio Flyer wagon.”

So one of her colleagues called it her Maddy Wagon, Garrett said.

“So I remember talking to a couple of different people about setting something up that was symbolic for her … I think I put in a search for Maddy Wagon or something. It’s kind of foggy how I stumbled upon it, but … a website popped up, and so I told my colleague, ‘You would never believe there’s a website out here called The Maddy Wagon,” She told them.

“That’s you,” Garrett says her co-worker informed her. “You are the Maddy Wagon. Madison is the Maddy Wagon. That’s what we did,” Garrett says about her colleagues.

Madison went into remission in March of 2014. The family is still brings Maddy Wagons of Hope to Children’s National each year.

“Usually the Thursday or Friday before the Christmas holiday, we take not only gifts for the children who are in treatment, but also things that their families may need such as gift cards to grocery stores, gas stations, Target, Wal-Mart, whatever.”

They also accept donations of “blankets for the kids, stuffed animals, some pajamas, different things like that for the families.”

Garrett says they’re accepting donations until Dec. 20. Get more information at The Maddy Wagon website or email themaddywagon@gmail.com with questions or to arrange to pick up or drop off any donations. There’s also information on their Facebook page.

For the remaining Tuesdays nights in November, donors can also drop off gifts for Maddy Wagons of Hope between 5 p.m. and 9 p.m. at Karaoke 4 a Kause D.C., which is held at Ben’s Upstairs on H Street Northeast.

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