'Wonders and Worries' offers free support for children of sick parents

Nonprofit program dedicated to helping children ages 2-18


Julianna has worried more than any 5-year-old should have to.


Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. 


“Our whole world changed,” Carolina Martinez-Reyna said. “Instead of the focus being on her 24-7, it’s, well, mom is going to a doctor’s appointment.”


For months, Carolina didn’t have the strength to go outside and play with her young daughter or even bathe her. The doctors, the chemotherapy and the uncertainty were scary things for a parent, let alone a child, to deal with.


So, the family got help and support at Wonders and Worries, a nonprofit program dedicated to helping children ages 2-18 cope when their parents are dealing with cancer or any other serious illness.


The program, located on the first floor of the Start Center at 4383 Medical Drive, offers free support and operates in partnership with the Children's Bereavement Center of South Texas and the Start Center.


“Our goal as they go through the program is to help the children understand their parents’ diagnosis, age appropriately, using medical equipment, lots of play and activity,” said Deanna Smith,  one of two child life specialists at Wonders and Worries.


The colorful space is filled with puppets and paints, and even has play ambulances, IVs and X-rays – toys that are used as tools to explore feelings and alleviate fears.


“It gives them a sense of control,” Smith said. “It allows them to play out and act out what they are feeling, what’s going on in the brain and get it out and help them cope.”


One of the toys is a port-a-cath doll.  Children can access the chest port, which looks like the one they might see on their parent. The doll’s hair even comes off, as their parent's might, after chemotherapy.


Martinez-Reyna said that when she lost her hair, it was a difficult time for her daughter.  But the education and counseling helped.


“They teach them that once your parent loses their hair, you know that the medicine is working,” she said.


Martinez-Reyna said the program eased her daughter’s stress and the family’s burden. 


Last week, she was declared cancer-free.   Julianna is a happy child who now wants to grow up to be a doctor.


To contact Wonders and Worries call 210-307-4853.

About the Author:

As a consumer reporter, Marilyn is all about helping people stay safe and save a buck. Since coming to KSAT in 1985, she’s covered everything from crime to politics, winning awards for her coverage of the Mexican Mafia, Oklahoma tornadoes, children’s transplants, an investigation into voting irregularities and even a hit-and-run Santa Claus.