Weekly Feature

2018-10-11 / Front Page

Brave Little Fighters takes children, families on outings


Brave Little Fighters Foundation eases the heartache, uncertainty and challenges faced by children with serious and terminal illness and their families in Western New York through joyful and care-free events year-round.

Elizabeth Agnello said she founded the organization to continue to serve the 175 families she has aided in the Buffalo area. The previous foundation, enCourage Kids, closed its doors to programs outside New York City on Sept. 30.

“I was really shocked to learn the news about one month ago that the New York City headquarters had chosen to shut down the Albany and Rochester/Buffalo offices,” Agnello said. “It was pretty devastating, because it was about a decade worth of work and amazing families have been served here, so I feel that there’s still a tremendous need that I can’t turn my back on.”

According to Agnello, the foundation and its outings provide “a unique kind of healing” and a rare opportunity for families to connect with other families, and children with other children, under the values of compassion, safety, camaraderie and possibility.

Brave Little Fighters and their families go on outings to create inspiring memories in spite of their serious and life-threatening illnesses. Brave Little Fighters and their families go on outings to create inspiring memories in spite of their serious and life-threatening illnesses. The organization will provide children age 4 to 18, and their families, the chance to enjoy life through family outings designed to create enjoyable, positive memories during a challenging medical journey.

“I have been extremely fortunate to have retained all of the families no longer being served, so I can serve them this way through the new foundation,” she said.

There’s lots of work left to be done, but Agnello is forging a new path and has planned two events for the children and their families this year.

Agnello recently made the move from West Seneca to Orchard Park near Green Lake, the site of this weekend’s outing for Brave Little Fighters.

A family photo day will be held Saturday, Oct. 13, at Green Lake in Orchard Park. Agnello said children are encouraged to dress in superhero costumes for the photo.

“In our eyes, they already are superheroes as far as their resilience and what they bring to the community,” Agnello said.

Later this year, Agnello will hold the inaugural Brave Little Fighters Christmas party Sunday, Dec. 2, at the East Aurora American Legion.

“It’s an important time of year to gain support and visibility for the foundation,” Agnello said.

She said the food and desserts, as well as toys that will be given out to children, are being donated in kind.

“Right now, there is no financial support,” she said. “It’s brand new. It’s a startup, grassroots foundation. I’m very hopeful that this will change very soon.”

Last week, Agnello said she received word that the papers of incorporation were approved through the Department of State.

“That’s the important first step for being able to pursue 501(c)3 status, which is really crucial for a nonprofit foundation,” she said.

Soon she will be able to reach out to area foundations and corporations to seek donations and sponsorships.

For now, Agnello said she is depending on a Go Fund Me page, available at go fundme.com/brave-little-fighters-foundation.

“This will be a slow process. People don’t even know the name,” she said. “We’re back at square one, but it’s very exciting. I have to cross my fingers and toes that it will work out.”

Agnello has taken Brave Little Fighters to outings at a Buffalo Bills’ game and Darien Lake Theme Park.

In the past, outings have been to the Buffalo Botanical Gardens, history and science museums, experiences in art, yoga and meditation, cooking classes and athletic events, and trips to the Great Pumpkin Farm.

She said outings are designed to create a sense of community and lasting memories for the children, siblings and parents and, of equal importance, to offer inspiration.

“As I look to 2019, I’m hoping for that additional monetary backing that will go beyond what donations in kind can offer,” she said.

Funds for marketing, a banner for the Christmas party and a website are among the foundation’s top needs, Agnello said.

“I will be submitting grants in January, and I’m very hopeful, but in a grand sense, all of those outings will remain the same if the generosity of the donors also remains the same,” she said.

Agnello created a board of directors for the foundation, composed of Buffalo Bills’ and Sabres’ employees, an M&T Bank vice president, the head of Federal Meat Market and a businesswoman.

Agnello said Nancy Dowdall has volunteered to support the foundation as its creative director. She is a professional photographer and is donating her talents.

“I think it’s so important to recognize that you simply can’t do it on your own. It’s been a real whirlwind for the last month, a sort of one-woman operation. I wanted to fulfill the same mission in a sense of serving children with serious and terminal illness and focus entirely on the outings component,” she said. “This Brave Little Fighters Foundation will focus 100 percent on the Buffalo area, which is exciting to me because we often played second fiddle to New York City.”

Any local organization that wishes to provide an Escape may contact Agnello at 846-5129 or by emailing BraveLittleFightersFoundation@gmail.com.

Donations can be made to Brave Little Fighters through the organization’s Facebook page.

email: jwaters@beenews.com

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