A Second Family: A Home Away from Home in Trying Times

Catie Viox


This summer Dragonfly has been seen busily readying its new residence five blocks from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. The historic Hauck-Heine house at 506 Oak Street  is the The Dragonfly Foundation’s new headquarters. Created nine years ago by co-founders Christine Nietzke, President, and Ria Davidson, Vice President, Dragonfly helps pediatric cancer patients and their families find strength, courage and joy.

Based on their own personal experiences with the dire affects cancer can inflict on a person and their extended family, Christine and Ria established Dragonfly to deliver the best emotional, relational, and practical support systems for families affected by pediatric cancer. Though treatment may end and illness may be cured or managed, the long-term effects of factors like internal group tension, familial isolation, post-traumatic stress, the anxiety of recurrence, and the emotional, physical and financial toll on the family unit often linger for years to come.

With the Dragonfly mission and programs well established, the foundation is excited and ready to take on the challenge of renovating their new home in the heart of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital  Medical Center community where they can best serve Dragonfly families.

The dragonfly symbolizes strength, courage and joy and, as in its natural habitat, every dragonfly needs a place to land. The Foundation refers to its new home as the Landing, and it is from the Landing that it will provide patients and their families strength, courage and joy. The Dragonfly foundation is working to fund the complete restoration/renovation of the property to provide a place where families can receive critical patient and family services. Interior and exterior spaces will open as resources allow. The goal is to begin offering programming at the Landing this fall.

Dragonfly donors are encouraged to become part of the Landing by sponsoring rooms and special spaces, art, technology, books, events, programs and a name for the Landing home.

Describing the true meaning of the foundation, Davidson says, “We are like a big hug, a second family, a lifeline to support.”

Since 2010, Dragonfly has registered over 5,500 adults and children from 1,500 families being served by Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Dayton Children’s Hospital, Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago and The Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center.

Dragonfly services begin by providing care bags to new patients and their families confronting initial admission experiences. A Dragonfly podcast relates Johanne’s story when admitting her son Jayden, “I knew nothing about navigating hospital processes. I received a blue bag with a yellow dragonfly on it – somebody knew what I needed at the most important time in my life. It was like someone walking with me through the whole process, telling me what I needed.”

When it started Dragonfly was providing 30 care bags a month (value: $150/each) of personal care items, office supplies, paper goods and other essentials to newly diagnosed patients. It is now providing Cincinnati Children’s Hospital with more than 70 bags a month. The increase is a testament to the prestige and quality of treatment provided by the hospital. Other in-hospital services from Dragonfly include charging stations in parent lounges, coffee makers, laptops, video games, and electronics, toys, caregiver/patient luncheons, and responding to urgent needs that patients/families experience.

In addition to in-hospital programs, the foundation also offers other outpatient programs and patient/family outing opportunities. The Landing augments these programs and services with a peaceful, serene, familial environment away from the hospital.

Nearly 60 percent of Dragonfly families are from Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana; approximately 40 percent come  from outside the region and from six other countries.

Thinking back to the founding of The Dragonfly Foundation, Davidson says, “Christine and I thought Dragonfly would be a toy drive. We have come so far but the size of the need is immense. You never forget the people who gives you a torch in the dark, the people who are there to lift you up, hold your hand . . . who are a reliable source of support and who can anticipate your needs, especially when times are so hard you can barely think or even breathe. Not everybody can volunteer, not everybody can donate, but if we all did something to show we care, the world would be a much better place.”

The Dragonfly Foundation is located at 506 Oak Street, Cincinnati OH, 45219. For more information call 513 494-6474 or visit their website at www.dragonfly.org.