Harper Grant interviews CCS Parents Jim and Amy Jo Osborn, who host an annual Trunk or Treat event for families connected to the Austin Hatcher Foundation
Jim and Amy Jo Osborn’s first child, Austin Hatcher, was diagnosed with a rare and aggressive form of pediatric cancer after his birth in 2006. They mourned the loss of their first child just 11 days after his diagnosis. Already experienced in fundraising for childhood cancer organizations, they realized there was a gap in local services for families dealing with the effects of a cancer diagnosis. Now parents to Chattanooga Christian School upper school students Zoe and Anabelle Osborn, they are the founders of Chattanooga non-profit Austin Hatcher Foundation for Pediatric Cancer. Amy Jo spoke to sophomore Harper Grant about the organization’s history and its annual Trunk or Treat on October 28 at 6:00 p.m.
Your website mentions that you and your husband started working with childhood cancer before the Austin Hatcher Foundation. Which organizations did you work with, and in what capacity?
Lighthouse Family Retreat, out of Atlanta, is an organization that when a family has a childhood cancer diagnosis, they take that family down to the beach for a retreat. At the same time, they do counseling. That’s who we were raising money for prior to us having our child. My husband was a professional race car driver, and so when we would go to Atlanta for that race, we wanted to find a local charity to invite people out to. That one just spoke near and dear to our heart. A NICU nurse started that organization, having walked through seeing so many families that deal with those effects. So that’s how we got involved with them.
When was the Austin Hatcher Foundation created?
He passed away October 19 of 2006, and very quickly we had established our organization on December 6 of the same year. We went through about six months of paperwork to get us registered as a 501c3, so we started kicking off services the summer of 2007. The uniqueness [of what we do] is that we don’t bill insurance for any of our services. It’s all free of charge, and so fundraising looks like a lot of long hours, hard work, lots of partnerships from monthly donors to big corporate donors, events, different marketing campaigns, those types of things.
What pushed you to create a new foundation rather than continuing with your previous workings with childhood cancer?
I think in life everyone deals with different circumstances in a different way. For us, our grieving process through losing our son was something that motivated us to take that extra step to try and help the greater good. Through that grieving process, we just really honed in that reality that society doesn’t fully see that when you have a child with pediatric cancer, outside of the medical treatment, everyone in that family deals with that diagnosis differently. It motivated us to try and bridge that gap of services. It’s been therapeutic for us. It's been something that we can honor our son and try to turn something tragic into something positive.
Tell me about the history of the Trunk or Treat event.
That just started last year. We always do a huge Halloween and a huge Christmas party. Last year, we decided to do a Trunk or Treat because we have a new facility that has a large parking spot, and it was a Covid-friendly way of being able to get all the families together and still be able to celebrate. This year we hope it’s even bigger. Last year we had about 30 cars and 180 people. We hope to double it this year.
Who is responsible for car decorations and candy?
For each individual who signs up, their way of giving back is they can decorate their trunk however they want to. We already have one trunk signed up to do a Christmas theme, one is going to do Mario. However you guys want to decorate it. If the decorations is all the funding the individual has, we can fund the candy to be given out. We also ask families or individuals to do a little game, something interactive at their car for participating families.
Who are the major donors to recognize for Trunk or Treat?
This year, Tennessee Valley Authority is our No. 1 sponsor. Chic-fil-A is also getting involved corporately.
What is the overall goal for the Austin Hatcher Foundation?
The whole goal is to keep that entire family unit together and walk through the pediatric cancer diagnosis with every individual in the family to allow them to thrive through this diagnosis.
Under the “Our Divisions” page on your website, you list four therapies for children and their families struggling with childhood cancer. Why was it important for you to showcase these, and did any of these help your family when Hatch was going through this?
We split them up into four different divisions because one, everybody in society likes to give to something, and this is a way we could categorize different ways they can give. Also, we’re always trying to think outside the box of therapies. Psycho-Oncology is really all the mental health, so counseling, OT, mental health counseling, grief counseling, marriage counseling, financial counseling. These are all things that helped Jim and I with our son. And then we’ve got Industrial Arts, which is a fun way of being able to disguise therapy. You’re actually building cars, you’re moving wrenches, you’re using hammers to build confidence [while in] occupational therapy. A lot of children who go through chemotherapy actually lose dexterity, fine motor skills, so it’s a fun way of doing that. They can do it as a family. It’s a very friendly environment, and we really have fun at the same time that we are improving their quality of life.