This is a follow-up to an article focused on the inspiring success story of Aiden and his family that printed in our January 15, 2021 issue. You can read it online at waynedalenews.com
Eight-year-old Aiden Newberg spent a recent sunny, spring day at Eagle Marsh, frolicking in the mud like any other vivacious youngster.
His play time was courtesy of the work of a group called A Kid Again that hosts programs for children suffering from life-threatening illnesses and their families.
Earlier this year, Aiden successfully completed a course of treatment at Riley Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis to battle an aggressive leukemia. He finally got to ring the Cancer Bell – a tradition at Riley when cancer patients finish their acute care – on Jan. 7 of 2020, but his treatments are ongoing.
“He just likes to be out here with other kids who are on a journey like him,” said Aiden’s aunt, Katie Newberg. “You have such a connection with people like you when you’re at events like this.”
And making kids like Aiden happy is exactly the point of the group’s excursions, noted Amy Przybylinski, programs and communications coordinator for A Kid Again.
“We just want to put smiles on their faces, that’s kind of our mission,” Przybylinski said.
The Eagle Marsh occasion, held on May 1, hosted about four to five local families, and was the first Fort Wayne event held by the Columbus, Ohio-based group.
The event went from 10 a.m. to noon, and then 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., with a lunch for the attending families in between. Programs at the event included scooping a cup of the marsh’s muck up with a cup – Aiden’s preferred activity – and then analyzing the contents, and planting seeds and native plants behind the bright red barn in the marsh off Engle Road.
A Kid Again began in Columbus, Ohio, about 25 years ago, and was created – according to the organization — “to foster hope, happiness, and healing for children with life-threatening conditions and their families.”
“Every child in America with a life-threatening condition,” group officials continued, “can be a Kid Again.”
The group first expanded into Indiana in 2018 with an office in Indianapolis. Fort Wayne is the second city of their expansion focus.
“We cover the entire state,” Przybylinski said, “but Fort Wayne is kind of our second focus area. This is our second-biggest population that we are trying to serve.”
She said the group now helps about 240 families, but the roster of families under their canopy is constantly growing. “We started this year with only 200 families,” Przybylinski said, “so we’re really starting to pick up our outreach.”
And there’s no charge for any of the outings her group sponsors, Przybylinski noted.
“People are always expecting to have to pay something,” Przybylinski said. “And they’re always surprised at what we offer for free. But, it’s ‘Cost-free. Care-free.’ that’s what we call it.”
Last year, the group served more than 12,000 children and their families; since the organization’s start, they’ve helped more than 200,000 children.
And the number of groups partnering with A Kid Again is growing as well, Przybylinski noted. The agency is now working with Ronald McDonald House, Gigi’s Playhouse, Turnnstone, First Steps Physical Therapy, and other local hospital systems.
No matter the partners, for Aiden, the day was just a chance to forget his troubles for a couple of hours and be “A Kid Again.”
“He really just loves digging in the mud, and he’s really into seeds and plants,” his aunt, Newberg, said with a smile. “Aiden always looks forward to these adventures,” she said, “and it gives our family something of a break. While it gives him a chance just to go out and be a kid again.”