Introducing the Future of MaxLove Project: The Ohana Project

MaxLove Project was started out of a deep hope that all children fighting cancer will THRIVE in treatment and beyond. It began in the earliest months of Max’s cancer treatment when his parents saw the devastating effects of these conventional treatments on his and other children’s quality of life. Pain, extreme fatigue, cognitive decline, physical decline, nausea, weight loss, and many other smaller things are all part and parcel of the cancer treatments that parents trust will save their kids lives. And we now know that these effects of treatment can last a lifetime and eventually increase the risk for heart disease, cancer, stroke, and early death. 

We cancer families suffer through cancer treatment because it gives our kids the best chance for survival. But we started MaxLove Project because all children diagnosed with childhood cancers deserve to THRIVE. And so we’ve spent our energy focusing on the healing benefits of sleep, nutrition, physical activity, stress management, and social support (all aspects of our BE SUPER ACTION PLAN) as well as integrative therapies like acupuncture and massage. While we have constantly found new ways to deliver these to cancer families, we have had to deliver them in piecemeal fashion, through separate initiatives like our BE SUPER & THRIVE Kits, cooking classes, individual dietitian consultations, Broth Bank, therapeutic arts programming, and so on. This has limited the full power of each therapy or behavior change because—in truly integrative fashion—they are meant to work together. 

Therefore, last summer we began work on a game-changing program that brought our Director of Research, Justin Wilford, PhD, together with three of our Medical Advisory Board members, Ruth McCarty, LAc, (Clinical Director of Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture at CHOC Children’s), Tiffani Ghere, RD (Clinical Pediatric Dietitian, CHOC Mission) and Nadia Torres-Eaton, PsyD (Clinical Psychologist for the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s). Our goal was to design a comprehensive integrative and lifestyle medicine program that will combine all of our separate programs into a targeted, personalized 3-month program that will profoundly improve the short- and long-term health of all children fighting cancer. We knew that in order to help parents achieve their dreams of thrivership for their children, we would need to engage both parents and children in tailored integrative therapies (like acupuncture and therapeutic massage), culinary training, small-group facilitated social support, and professional and personalized consultations for nutrition, physical therapy, and psycho-social wellness for parents and children in treatment and survivorship. The result of months of planning and researching is The Ohana Project.

Ohana, as Lilo & Stitch fans know, is a term that comes from Hawaiian culture and refers to family in all of its all of its senses, from blood-related to a broader communal bond. It’s a perfect term because our program will target the parent and child together in order to change the health dynamics of the entire family. Evidence shows that child and parent health are tied together, so we believe that the only way to impact childhood cancer patients’ long-term health and survival — the only way to truly change the odds today — is to change the health of the entire family. 

But we don’t stop there. A cornerstone of The Ohana Project is small, online social support groups of parents whose children have similar diagnoses and are in similar stages of treatment. In groups of five, parents will be connected to each other and a health professional experienced in integrative and lifestyle medicine. The goal of these groups is to not only deepen the social support parents can provide one another, but also to maximize the sharing of health information in a very specific and tailored way. This is truly Ohana—families coming together as a part of a larger family. 

The MaxLove Project team and our community, funding Phase One of The Ohana Project at the 2016 Farm to Fork dinner at Tanaka Farms.

And now we’re asking an even larger family—you, the community of childhood cancer advocates and supporters—to join us in Ohana. We will be enrolling our first cohorts locally in Orange County, CA early in 2017 and hope to extend to families across the U.S. by late 2017. But we can only expand as far as our larger Ohana helps us. To support this truly game-changing project, you can sign up for a monthly, recurring donation here or a one-time donation HERE. Thank you for being a part of our MaxLove Ohana!