Members of the New Milford Lions Club, already in the forefront of community projects such as vision testing for youngsters and enterprises fostering youth growth and success, are now adding cancer to their missions list.

Childhood Cancer International, a group formed by 171 countries, has designated Feb. 15 of each year as International Childhood Cancer Day.

Lions Club International, recognizing the importance of battling childhood cancer, asked its member clubs to do the same.

Maredith Spector of Danbury, a member of the New Milford Lions and the District 23B Lions cabinet co-chair for childhood cancer, has announced that New Milford added the initiative to its community service.

“We’re making a declaration that we want to find ways to support families facing childhood cancer,” Spector said. “We want to do this through service.”

“There are community safety nets to help families in distress financially but there is also a need to care for the spirit, the morale, the strength of the family,” she said.

According to the CDC, cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under 20 and the rate of children diagnosed with cancer is rising by up to 1.5 percent each year.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that, despite the mortality statistics, the rate of surviving childhood cancer is also rising.

Today, about 80 percent of children beat the disease.

Success against childhood cancer is an international concern.

How can individuals help?

Spector said she recently spoke with a single mom whose four children range from 6 to adulthood. The 13-year-old boy is fighting cancer. She is supported in many ways by extended family and friends.

The mother, asked what Lions might do to improve her days, admitted she dreamed of having a full family portrait, the people in her life smiling, being happy, in a photo big enough to frame.

The cost is beyond her budget, but not beyond the Lions’ ability to provide.

Spector said a local professional photographer donated the time, and Lions will pay for the photograph printing and copies, and the frame

In addition, arrangements were made for the 13-year-old and his brothers, all sports fans, to get a Facetime call from Jonathan Engelmann, a recent draft for the Cleveland Indians and the nephew of a local Lion.

Plus, the younger children, who love to fish, will receive donated children’s fishing poles, and mom has received an addition to her collection of little Golden Books.

Reaching out to community members facing the emotional ravages of childhood cancer, does not necessarily depend on fundraising or money grants, Spector said.

When local Leos - teens and young adults in the Lions program - donate books about cancer survivors to the middle and high schools in town, that act says, “We care,” and caring is the beginning step in any journey of service to someone else.

For more information about the mission, contact newmilfordctlionsclub@gmail.com.