Laura and Atom Coffman went through what no parent should have to go through — losing their son to terminal cancer.
Their son Hunter Coffman died of brain cancer last year at age 4.
To keep his legacy going, the Coffmans created a nonprofit in his honor called “Hunter’s Helping Hands.”
Laura Coffman said the nonprofit was formed recently in a partnership with Cayce & Grove, a law firm in Maple Valley that has helped the Coffmans through the legalities of starting a nonprofit.
“It was such a beautiful collaboration because it wasn’t just business. There was also heart in it because they really cared about Hunter and they really care about our family and it’s important to them what we’re doing too,” she said. “We’re really appreciative because I didn’t know what I was doing when I went to file a nonprofit — it’s kind of scary. So to have them backing us legally, it feels really supportive and secure.”
Hunter’s Helping Hands has a specific community that it caters too — terminally ill pediatric patients who have cancer.
The Coffmans knew for about a year that Hunter was terminally ill.
“It was just a really hard time because we had exhausted all our help in forms of ‘Make A Wish,’ and a lot of other nonprofits that we were getting help from, we had already used them,” Laura said. “So during the worst time there was not much to look forward to, which was so devastating.”
Because the family had spent the past three years battling cancer, Laura said they were not doing so well financially, but wanted to be able to take Hunter on trips and make his last year of life the best it could be.
That’s where the community of Maple Valley came to the rescue. People came together to help the Coffmans by donating money to the family and by showing their love and support.
“We couldn’t even believe it that our community was sustaining us in such a great way. We kept saying, before Hunter passed, when we’re out of this fire, we have to pay it forward,” Laura said. “We have to do something for people that these people did for us.”
With the money and support from the community, the Coffmans were able to go on vacations to help take the family’s mind off the hardship they were going through.
When Hunter found out that he and his family was going on a trip, Laura said he would get so excited it would be like he forgot he ever had cancer.
Hunter’s love for traveling started a couple of years ago when the Valley Girls and Guys Club helped the family raise money to go to Hawaii so Hunter could meet Stitch from the Disney movie “Lilo and Stitch.”
That’s when the Coffmans realized going on vacation was therapeutic not just for Hunter, but the whole family.
The goal of Hunter’s Helping Hands is to provide that same form of therapy to other families by providing them with the funds to go on vacations and to just forget for a while.
Laura said there’s no limit to what a family could decide to do. If they are able to fly, they can fly to Hawaii like Hunter wanted to. Or they could go to a place more local such as Great Wolf Lodge, another favorite of Hunter’s.
“We’re trying to raise money so we can start helping families in that way, and we want to make sure that when we go to our first family, we have the funds to do something that they would really want to do,” Laura explained. “We don’t want to have to set a limit of something local. If they can fly and they want to go somewhere, we want to be able to that.”
So far with the help of the community, the nonprofit has raised about $10,000, and that was within a week’s time, according to Laura.
“When we were totaling everything up we couldn’t even believe it. My husband and I just looked at each other, like did that just happen? Which makes us remember that this town really loves Hunter’s story and believes in what we’re doing, and that means something to us,” Laura said.
Laura said their hope is to help three to five families this year. To do that, they need more funds.
In September 2019, the Coffmans will host a charity golf tournament at the Auburn Golf Course to raise money.
Registration for a team of four will cost $500, while hole sponsorships are also $500. The event has already received support from community members. One person commented on he Hunter’s Helping Hands Facebook page post saying, “We would love to sponsor! How do we sign up?”
To help people in another way, Laura said the Coffmans will host a blood drive at Maple Valley Days, which is June 7-9 at Lake Wilderness Park.
“It’s super exciting because the world is in need of blood right now. We wanted to be sure that our nonprofit is not just giving back in money, but we also wanted to do good deeds in the community and in the world,” Laura said. “Blood transfusions were so important to Hunter during chemo. We saw how much blood he went through and we also think that’s important for different people with different diseases and sicknesses.”
Throughout this process, Laura said she has been surprised a lot.
The biggest surprise to her was that it’s not as hard as people may think it is to do something big in the world.
She said when you think of things like curing cancer and starting a nonprofit, it can be daunting. But once you get started and reach out to people, people really do want to help — more than she ever thought.
“He got to do everything, he lived an amazing life before he passed away and we hope that other families going through what we went through can feel that kind of peace that they got that time to spend together,” Laura said of Hunter. “Don’t be afraid to accept the help the world wants to give you because in a cancer diagnosis it can feel so isolating because not everybody gets cancer.”
Hunters Helping Hands is a recognized Washington State non profit and pending 501(c)3.