The mission of Christ’s Starfish Foundation is to share the love of Jesus Christ through two areas of service in our community. We work with children confined to local children’s hospitals by providing assistance to them through the child life specialists. We also assist families of non-cancer patients who are experiencing financial hardships due to their child’s illness.
In January 2007, Carldon Lahey read an article in the Florida Times-Union about an 18 year old patient at Wolfson Children’s Hospital by the name of A. J. Donahue. The article told how A.J. organized a fundraising campaign to help Wolfson while battling a fatal illness. Using his web site, A.J . offered stickers with his logo for a $2.00 donation. Within six weeks, he had raised $50,000 in donations from around the world, meeting his goal two days before his death. Reading this article was a transformational moment. It was the first of many such moments that we at the foundation describe as “God Moments” . The Christ’s Starfish Foundation was established and a journey with Wolfson Children’s Hospital began.
Although originally believing that the foundation’s purpose would be to help children with cancer, it was discovered through a meeting with Johnna Heavner, pediatric oncology social worker, that there were already two organizations who specifically provided for those needs in the Jacksonville area. The real need, we would learn ,was for those children who were hospitalized with non-cancer illnesses and their families. The social workers at the hospital were continually challenged to find help for them.
Since that time there have been “God Moments” too numerous to count. Through the leading of the Holy Spirit and countless numbers of contributors and volunteers, Christ’s Starfish Foundation has expanded to include Shand’s Hospital in Gainesville, FL and Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola.
From groceries to electric bills to funeral costs and even funding a wheelchair accessible van, the foundation has tried to meet each need as the Lord sees fit to send them our way. One of the highlights of our work has been in spreading joy to all of the children who are confined to the hospital on Christmas Day by providing gift bags stuffed full of presents.
In November 2008, we were contacted by Billy Woods, father of 16 year old Riley Woods. Billy is a good friend and the attorney who assisted us with our 501(c) (3) filing. Riley had been in Shands Hospital, Gainesville, FL as a child for an extended period of time. Riley had a desire to “give back” to the institution that had done so much for him years earlier. At Christ’s Starfish we try to wait on our Lord to bring us opportunities to serve Him. When we observe our Lord bringing us another opportunity to serve Him, we do our best to be obedient and follow His call. When Riley expressed a desire for us to partner with him, we took that as a call from our Lord and we obeyed. As a result we began our journey to serve our Lord through assisting the children and their families at Shands Hospital.
In May of 2009, Carldon had the opportunity to work as an escort for the golfers at the Players Championship Golf Tournament in Ponte Vedra, FL. On Tuesday of that week during a practice round he was randomly assigned to work with pro golfer Boo Weekly along with several other golfers. The escort’s job is to assist the marshals in maintaining crowd control and assist the golfer and his family when the opportunity arises. As things worked out, Carldon had the opportunity to work with Boo for the next five days. During that time he got the chance to meet and assist Boo’s family and friends. One person Carldon met was Boo’s wife Karyn. As the week progressed Carldon learned that Karyn and Boo’s two children were born at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, FL. Upon learning that Sacred Heart had a children’s hospital he asked Karyn to let us know if she ever wanted to help the children and families at Sacred Heart. When Carldon called Karyn the Friday after the tournament to see how things were going she expressed her desire to partner with Christ’s Starfish at Sacred Heart. This began our work in Pensacola. In the summer of 2009 Carldon, Karyn, and Patty Hawthorne (Karyn’s mother) met with social workers and child life specialists to begin our work there. Boo and Karyn Weekley are a caring family who are very thankful for their blessings and opportunities they have been given in life. They have a sincere desire to give back and help wherever they can. We at Christ’s Starfish are very grateful to our Lord for chance to work with their family to make a difference at Sacred Heart.
In January 2010, our Lord gave Carldon a vision to be in ten children's hospitals, in three states, in three years. As we move into 2012 we currently have a presence in six hospitals in three states; Wolfson - Jacksonville, FL, Shands-Gainesville, FL, Sacred Heart-Pensacola, FL, Egleston and Scottish Rite-Atlanta, GA, and Blair Batson - Jackson, MS. As we enter the third year of this vision, we are pursuing this God given goal. With Blair Batson being the only children's hospital in Mississippi, our expansion focus will be in Florida and Georgia. We have made contact with St Joseph's in Tampa, FL and Arnold Palmer Children's Hospital in Orlando, FL. We believe Hugh Spaulding Children's Hospital, the third hospital in Atlanta, will be our ninth. We are looking at one additional facility in Georgia to be our tenth. Please be in prayer for us as we pursue this vision.
In the summer of 2011 we traveled to Atlanta, GA to meet with staff from Egleston and Scottish Rite children's hospitals. Joining Carldon and Jim Hutcheson from Jacksonville and the hospital staff members was Charles McDaniels. Charles is totally committed to building our Atlanta team to support and serve the needs these children and their families have in Atlanta. In September, after a $5,000 commitment from Christ's Starfish Foundation and a $5,000 individual family donation, we began our work assisting the children with non cancer illnesses and their families in Atlanta. The needs in Atlanta are great but we serve a mighty God who we believe will call HIS chosen people to partner with us to meet these needs in HIS name.
Our Christmas present project also expanded in 2011 to Egleston and Scottish Rite. With dedicated leaders, many individual donations, and Pepsi as an amazingly generous partner, our first Christmas in Atlanta saw 140 children at Egleston receive presents and a great number at Scottish Rite. Many thanks to Bill and Pam Rouse and their neighbors who along with Pepsi, provided the presents to the kids at Scottish Rite. We are looking forward to expanding our Atlanta work in Hugh Spaulding Children's Hospital and building many more partners in the Atlanta area.
On January 19, 2012, Carldon traveled to Jackson, Mississippi and along with Jackson resident, Will McNamara, met with Sonja Bullock, Michelle Revord, Tishawn Thames, and Tina McKenzie from Blair Batson Children's Hospital. With Will as our leader in Jackson, we are beginning our work at Blair Batson. We are excited and feel very blessed to have been called to work at the only children's hospital in Mississippi.
As we continue the journey that our Lord is leading us on to provide assistance to these hurting children, we covet your prayers. We really have no idea where our Lord is leading us but we pray daily for the wisdom to be obedient to HIS call on our lives.
Helping hurting children and their families in the name of Jesus Christ.
- Carldon Lahey, President
- Becky Lahey,Secretary
- Jim White,
- Ann White
- Mark Woods
- David Hill
- Jim Hutcheson
- Billy Woods
- Karyn Weekley
- Patty Hawthorne
- Julie Gump, Treasurer
- Bill Donohue
- Rev. Randy Wilson