Wilton charity mounts COVID-19 Relief Fund

Circle of Care’s annual 5K, held in early May, is one of the organization’s important fundraisers to be interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Circle of Care’s annual 5K, held in early May, is one of the organization’s important fundraisers to be interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jeff Salguero / Circle of Care

WILTON — Right about now, Circle of Care would be moving forward with its annual 5K held in early May, a popular event that draws hundreds whether the sun is shining or the rain is pouring.

It’s a big fundraiser for the charity that helps some of the most vulnerable people in the state — families with a child with cancer — but it won’t happen on the streets of Wilton. It’s being forced to go virtual.

While many people are riding out the COVID-19 pandemic at home, cancer treatments continue and the needs of those families continue. Now more than ever, they seek assistance with the most basic of necessities: rent, food, utilities, transportation to treatment.

Some of the calls for help they’ve received in the past week have been from:

 A mother about to go back to work after her son completed his six-month intensification phase now has to stay home because he cannot attend school. The fast-food chain she works at will not pay her as she has already exhausted her family medical leave and cannot hold the job for her when this period of containment is over.

 A per diem health care aide cannot work because she is at risk of bringing the virus home to her immune-compromised teenage daughter.

 A family that has to travel to New York City for acute care now needs long-term home care for their other children as they will be quarantined in the city.

“Our families, many who are immune suppressed and at significant risk, are now on an even higher alert. The choices are staggering — go to treatment, the grocery store, or work and risk exposure to the virus?” co-founders Liz Salguero and Dawn Ladenheim said in an emailed appeal.

Circle of Care’s phone lines remain open while staff works remotely to address the urgent needs of families. They work closely with hospital social workers to triage those most in need and ensure that every family has access to critical financial assistance.

They continue to process financial aid applications, while at the same time mail digital thermometers, gas and grocery cards and care packages to siblings to help keep spirits up.

But this cannot go on indefinitely. Two of the organization’s fundraising events — expected to raise more than $50,000 — have been canceled, adversely affecting the work it has been doing for 17 years. Now Circle of Care is asking for donations so it can continue that work.

“Our Financial Assistance program is there for families precisely for times like this, emergencies, to help meet basic needs,” Salguero and Ladenheim said. Donations to its COVID-19 Relief Fund may be made at thecircleofcare.org.