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.
At Christ’s Starfish Foundation we are committed to serving our Lord by assisting these hurting children and their families. Our Board pays all our administrative expenses allowing 100% of all funds donated and raised to go directly to our work.
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. Donohue. 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 our journey with Wolfson Children’s Hospital began.
Although originally not knowing the true purpose of the foundation we would be asked by oncology social worker Johnna Heavner at Wolfson to assist non cancer children and their families. As an oncology social worker she had access to two organizations providing assistance to cancer patients but her colleagues serving non cancer kiddos had very limited resources.
In November 2008, we were contacted by Billy Woods, a good friend and attorney. Billy’s son Riley had been at the Shands Hospital in Gainesville, FL as a child. He had a desire to “give back” to the institution that had done so much for him years earlier. 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 God by 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. He was randomly assigned to work with pro golfer Boo Weekley along with several other golfers for the week. As the week progressed, Carldon learned that Boo and his wife Karyn had two children born at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola, FL. When Karyn said her and Boo would help if Christ’s Starfish wanted to work at Sacred Heart, this began our work in Pensacola. We at Christ’s Starfish are very grateful to our Lord for chance to work with the Weekley family to make a difference at Sacred Heart.
One of the highlights of our work has been spreading joy to all of the children who are confined to the hospital on Christmas Day by providing gift bags stuffed full of presents each year. In 2011, we expanded into Atlanta, GA by partnering with Egleston and Scottish Rite children’s hospitals. 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. We have also expanded to Blair Batson’s Children’s Hospital, the only children’s hospital in Mississippi.
The Chick-fil-A True Inspiration Award
Our Lord was back to work blessing us beyond our wildest dreams in 2016. Beginning in 2015 Jeromy Williams, our Chick-fil-A owner operator partner, notified Carldon that he might have an idea with Chick-fil-A to possibly obtain a grant for our work and it could be very nice. In 2016 Jeromy sponsored us as an applicant for the True Inspiration Award for the Southeast Region of Chick-fil-A. Due to being out of town we barely made the deadline, and would have missed the deadline if it had not been extended due to some technical issues. After a lengthy vetting process, we were selected as one of three finalists for our region.
Next, we had to secure votes to determine who would win the top prize of $ 75,000. Guess what —– WE WON!!! Just another “God thing!!” We are utilizing these funds to help expand into three new states pf Indiana, North and South Carolina. To date we are now working in Indiana and the Carolinas are pending.
Also, during this period, we began our Vision program designed to fund future staffing needs we may have, our third funding tier. We contacted some of our partners to ask them if they would commit $ 10 per month for this future need. In 2017 we began having “thank you” dinners inspired by our desire to say thank you to Chick-fil-A for their generous support. At these dinners we offered attendees the opportunity to support our Vision program by becoming a partner. To date approximately three hundred individuals and entities have become Vision partners with various degree of support.
Carldon went to high school and college in Indiana. In 2016 when several members of his Winchester Community High School class of 1972 expressed an interest in assisting non-cancer pediatric patients in Indiana a meeting was set. With the support of a very close friend and mentor of Carldon’s, Errol Klem, along with Chris Lay and several 1972 grads including Mike Wickersham and Chip Loney, our Indiana work began in three children’s hospitals in Indianapolis and Ft. Wayne. We currently work at Riley and Peyton Manning in Indianapolis and Lutherans in Ft. Wayne. A note: Indiana has been financially independent from day one thanks to the organizational skills of Mike Wickersham and a team of committed volunteer partners. Except for Jacksonville, no other city or area has been self-funding from the outset. GREAT JOB!!
We continued to grow throughout the years of 2017-2020. The COVID 19 years of 2020-2022 presented new challenges with most of our events having to be cancelled. Of the appropriately 20 events we had scheduled for these years all but four have been cancelled. Through it all our Lord continues to bless and amaze us. Even with all the cancelled events our checkbook balance today is $40,000 more than our balance on January 1, 2020. Another “God thing” for sure.
As we continue our journey with Christ, we would like to say “thank you” to the hundreds of volunteers, partners, donors and supporters of our work and vision. We literally would be dead in the water without your support and obedience in answering our Lord’s call on your life to partner with us in this journey.
And our journey continues……