When Jon Longenecker started with ASK to create services and programs for our families in the Fredericksburg area, he saw an opportunity to create something amazing. As a retired special education teacher, he was accustomed to creating new and different approaches to learning and social challenges with adolescents and young adults, and he knew that he could help build the same type of programming and services in Fredericksburg that are offered to young pediatric oncology patients in Richmond, ASK's home base. “The more I learn about ASK and its mission of making life better for children with cancer, the more I fall in love with this organization and what it accomplishes on a daily basis,” says Jon. “I wasn’t aware of the learning and social difficulties that children with cancer can experience until I discovered ASK and all of the ways that ASK reaches each child, sibling and parent. I’m more convinced than ever that we can help mitigate some of the challenges these children face during treatment and in survivorship.”
Perhaps one of Jon’s most important initiatives is the after-school tutoring program. Here, kids are helped not just with their schoolwork, but something else just as important: socialization and building long-term friendships. “These kids experience so much isolation because of treatments,” continues Jon, “and their mental health needs are as important as their physical needs. We’re able to build lasting relationships by meeting once a week and helping each other with homework, but also through games, field trips and just having the opportunity to be teenagers. This is vital to their continued development, in spite of a thing called cancer.”
“I go to the kids’ school functions and sports games, and they have built such strong friendships as a result of our programs."
Jon hit the ground running by hosting a make-your-own-pizza party, a tour of the local airport and museum, a movie night, a fishing derby and so much more! Plans are in the works for a Fredericksburg Nationals night and a week of summer camp. “I go to the kids’ school functions and sports games, and they have built such strong friendships as a result of our programs. They are starting to attend one another’s high school plays and camps outside of ASK events. It's really incredible to see their support of one another develop and grow organically as a result of their time spent with each other here at ASK." “I am a man of faith and I know I’m where I’m needed most. I’m so excited to be part of such an impressive team of incredible people. I know we are making a difference in the lives of those affected by childhood cancer and I want to see our programming and participation grow exponentially. Thanks to generous donors, we’re on our way!”