Foundation paves way for sick children, families

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WTVD) -- A Chapel Hill family is using their personal loss to help ease the pain for other families who have sick children in local hospitals.

The Herman family learned firsthand that when your child is diagnosed with cancer, there's a whole other aspect to fighting the disease besides the treatment. There's also the fear and worry, including concern over how to pay the bills. And that extends to travel and lodging expenses. Although their son ultimately lost his battle with cancer, they're honoring his all-too-short life by trying to now help other families in need.

Cooper Herman was just about to celebrate his second birthday in 2009 when his parents got the diagnosis.

"Finding out he had cancer was just the shock of our life, especially brain cancer, when we had just never imagined in our wildest dreams," recalled his mother, Elise Herman. "Cooper had almost 10 surgeries just to his brain. He went through 90 rounds of radiation in total. We were in clinic five days a week for years."

Cooper's brave battle lasted five years until he passed away last January. However, his memory lives on through the "Super Cooper's Little Red Wagon Foundation."

"This community loved Cooper, and we love this community, and just being able to have his name on it and be an extension of him and kind of a legacy to him, it definitely helps the grieving process," explained Cooper's father, Justin Herman.

And their work is also helping others by providing housing for families who live an hour or more away and are seeking medical treatment for their children at Duke or UNC hospitals. The foundation has set up a "home-away-from-home" for these families dubbed the "Super Re-Cooper-ation House" in Southern Village.

"Instead of having to drive two hours back and forth each day or even further, or not having the ability because they're coming all across the country. We want to give them a home. A real home with a washer and dryer, a kitchen, separate bedrooms," said Justin.

"That means housing, that means food, so meals on a daily basis, that means gas cards, and any kind of support that alleviates the obstacles that get in the way of taking care of their child," Elise elaborated.

The couple points out that also includes free access to nearby Southern Village businesses such as the movie theater and the Tumble Gym, which offer much-needed distractions for sick kids and their siblings. All of this allows families to focus on their medical bills and the treatment.

"For families to try to determine whether they can even afford to seek the treatment shouldn't even be a question," Elise passionately pointed out. "If we can just alleviate some of that so they can focus on getting their child to and from the clinic, feeding them, not worrying how they're going to pay their mortgage and the housing while they're away, those are the things, at least if we can help with that, it would help."

To make all this possible, the foundation is raising money this weekend at their Annual Super Cooper's Rockin' Run this Saturday in Chapel Hill's Southern Village. The family-friendly event includes a 5k race, music, food trucks, and games for kids, such as a giant slide and a mechanical bull.

"This is the fifth Annual Super Cooper Rockin' Run, and we've raised nearly $350,000 over the last five years with this event," said Justin.

The event runs from 3 to 7 p.m. and will help the Herman family continue their mission.

As of right now they have the Super Re-Cooper-ation House along with two suites they sponsor at the Ronald McDonald House in Durham. They hope to raise enough money to start setting up another house by Duke Hospital later this year.

Click here for more info on this Saturday's event.

Click here for more on the foundation, including how to donate.

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