Las Vegas Sun

June 20, 2019

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Findlay Good Works:

Families battling childhood cancer have Candlelighters to lean on


Christopher DeVargas

Melissa “Mimi” Cipriano is executive director of Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada.

Melissa Cipriano

• Title: Executive Director, Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada

• Agency address: 8990 Spanish Ridge Ave., Suite 100, Las Vegas, NV 89148

• Agency phone number: 702-737-1919

• Agency website:

• Hours of operation: 8:30 a.m.- 5 p.m.

What is Findlay Good Works?

Good Works is a twice-monthly series in Las Vegas Weekly in which we highlight the efforts of nonprofit groups that are making a difference in our community. You can check out the good work of more organizations by visiting

What does your organization do?

Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation of Nevada is the first and oldest nonprofit organization in Nevada serving children with childhood cancer. Our mission is to provide emotional support, quality-of-life programs and financial assistance for these children and their families.

When and why was it established?

Candlelighters was established in 1978 by two families, each of whom had a child being treated for cancer. With little to no resources to help them navigate the world of childhood cancer, they came together to create a network of support for families affected by the disease. They believed that families could find strength, knowledge and comfort by banding together during their most difficult times. They wanted to use their experience to lessen the burden of those they knew would follow. Forty years later, the vision they created has helped support thousands of children and their families.

Who are its clients today?

Candlelighters serves more than 200 families each month and as many as 600 children—both the diagnosed child and siblings—each year.

What are its current initiatives or goals?

Our goal is to alleviate the isolation many families feel at the time their child is diagnosed. We offer our love, care, encouragement and understanding so that nobody will face the uncertain world of childhood cancer alone. We have a full-time office with professional staff focusing on three main areas of support: emotional, quality-of-life programs and financial assistance. A child diagnosed with cancer being treated in Nevada is the only requirement to become a Candlelighters Family. All programs and services are provided at no cost.

What services does the community likely know about?

Camp Independent Firefly is a five-day, four-night medically supervised camp for diagnosed children and their siblings, 7-17 years of age. Camp is held in Big Bear, California, each June, and activities include horseback riding, swimming, arts and crafts, the rock wall and more. Our volunteer medical team provides supervision, care and intervention if needed so that regardless of diagnosis, Candlelighters children can participate in this summertime rite of passage.

What services might the community not know about?

One of our lesser-known programs, but possibly one of our most important, is the counseling services we provide to children and their families. Counseling sessions consist of play therapy or horticultural therapy. Sessions take place at our office, the Garden of Hope or at the therapist’s private practice. Counseling helps families through the complex emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis and helps them communicate their feelings and fears with each other.

What can people do to get involved in the cause you serve?

One of the easiest ways to contribute is to make a donation. Gifts large and small help support our mission. Another way to get involved is to volunteer. We are always looking for enthusiastic and passionate volunteers, whether it’s for camp, helping with our Super Hero 5K in September, or helping to collect items for our Adopt-A-Family program.

Where do you see your organization in five years?

I think the goal of any nonprofit, really, should be to put itself out of business because that means the cause you serve has been solved. I would love if one day there was no longer a need for Candlelighters service in our community. Until that day comes, we’ll be here offering our love, care and encouragement.