Nick Arquette is the founder of Walk With Sally, a non-profit organization that offers a mentorship program that pairs cancer survivors with mentees that have a parent, sibling, or family member with cancer. The aim is to foster a loving friendship and a sense of community between all the parties involved.
Arquette became an entrepreneur in his early adulthood, and made a solid living before deciding to start Walk With Sally.
He formed the charity in 2005 after an epiphany, which came in his early 30’s following the realization that his mother, the titular Sally, was no longer alive in his memory.
She was diagnosed with breast cancer when Arquette was 11, and died five years later.
“I started thinking about my mom’s death, and what was out there for me, and trying to bring my mom’s memory back, and honor her,” he said. “I started looking at it as an entrepreneur, to create something where kids would have a friendship. I realized Sally, and what she represents, could be a symbol for parents who are struggling with cancer and trying to raise their kids. It’d never been done before.”
Walk With Sally’s main mentoring program, where a mentor is placed with a mentee, has helped a great number of children.
“We have matched over 400 children with a mentee in the 10-year period within this business of creating friendships,” said Arquette.
Mentors are chosen by the main criteria of being a cancer survivor themselves, or having gone through a situation where a loved one suffered from cancer, so as to have a better connection with the mentee. They are also background checked and trained in a comprehensive session, as well as monthly check-ins in order to provide the best friendship possible with their subject.
“Currently there are about 50 families in constant contact with us in case of special needs or financial issues they may be going through,” Arquette said.
Although there are national mentoring guidelines, such as with Big Brothers Big Sisters, which Walk With Sally takes cues from, such as every child paired must sustain the friendship for at least a year, Walk With Sally is a lot more intensive about the friendships created through their program.
Mentors are to spend six to eight hours a month with their mentees, and are to check-in monthly to review their performance.
“Physically mentoring is known to help with a child’s building confidence, staying away from drugs and alcohol, and gang activity because somebody cares about that child,” he said. “And by doing more intensive check-ins, we can ensure the best results for that child. And by pairing someone who has cancer with someone who’s dealt with it in the past, we can ensure the best connection.”
Walk With Sally is mostly connected with young cancer patients and loved ones of cancer patients through schools. They recently paired with the Los Angeles Unified School District, as well as hiring Spanish-speaking coordinators, further expanding their ability to help children all over the L.A. area. Hospitals are also affiliated with the organization, allowing them to refer children to WWS following an unfortunate diagnosis. Walk With Sally is also involved with financial aid to help medical bills from these hospitals and college scholarships.
Another facet of Walk With Sally is a program called HeArt to Home. A less time intensive arrangement, HeArt to Home consists of eight once a month visits by a volunteer who doesn’t necessarily have to be affiliated with someone with cancer, and they help the grieving child participate in something called “art healing.”
Art healing is a known therapy that consists of using color and talking about their feelings to get what they feel out onto the canvas, much like a Jackson Pollock painting.
“Everyone grieves differently, and the art healing seems to bring out their true feelings, and that’s what our goal is,” Arquette added.
Although the volunteers don’t have to be cancer survivors or close to one, they are still extensively trained so as not to hurt someone’s feelings.
Walk With Sally also uses some of their support for “Friendship Activities,” which take place once a quarter. Created to foster a sense of community between the children, their families, and the mentors. They all converge to be able to see other kids and their progress, and receive support in the form of fun during a day of whale watching or a trip to a play. This also allows families with an inadequate financial situation or transportation to experience something out of the ordinary from their routines.
“I love seeing these kids form friendships and meet outside of the friendship activities,” Arquette said. “We have a Facebook page that allows all of these people to connect with each other in the every day too.”
Walk With Sally also holds monthly events, which can be found on their website listed below.
Although their last event, White Light White Night was cancelled due to the rain on July 18, it has been rescheduled for Aug. 22, 2015. The evening will feature tastings from over 20 restaurants, open bar, live entertainment and silent and live auction.
Arquette’s organization is one that has helped hundreds of children, and can be used to help you or a loved one if needed. Volunteers and support are welcome at any time.
For more information, visit walkwithsally.org.