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When Pigs Fly, anything is possible

By JUDITH LINDER-ASHAKIH • May 31, 2018 at 2:00 PM

We probably all have used the phrase 'when pigs fly' at one time or another to refer to something we thought was impossible, right?

Yet the opposite is happening in a little shop on Main Street in Norwalk where possible takes place in the form of an incredible mix of donated objects. These are fashionably displayed, reasonably priced and sold by smiling volunteers. The proceeds from When Pigs Fly supports the Piggyback Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization which creates ways to bring joy into the lives of children when someone in a family is diagnosed with a life- threatening disease such as cancer.

This began years ago when Lisa Hiler's daughter discovered that the father of a little boy in her class died from cancer. Hiler said tried to help the family by applying to the Rosemary Hockney Foundation of Detroit, but they were refused because of being out-of-state.

“We were crushed,” she said, “but I went to meet R.H.F. They said they would help me start a foundation in Norwalk. By the time we got everything together it was approximately a year.”

Matt and Lisa Herner were original members of what became the Piggyback Foundation. Stephanie Islam came up with the whimsical name because she said “after all, every child loves a piggyback ride.”

“Over 10 years later we have twelve board members. They volunteer time to adopt families, work with them and co-ordinate their needs with our five funds. The programs are to do big/little things that create joy for children. We helped 74 families in 2017 with 187 children,” Hiler said.

There are four main programs to help carry families through times of need.

Family Counts is first. It helps with holiday funds, birthday parties, vacations, dinner, movies. For example, Disney on Ice is popular now. These events are all organized by incredible ladies who volunteer their time. Funds are mostly used at Christmas.

Next is Education Counts, which helps with back-to-school funds, class trips and computers or I Pads for a child who is sick. There is a Kat Rice Memorial Scholarship which helps with graduation expenses, cap and gown, and with prom expenses as well.

Kids Count is the third program, paying fees for extra-curricular activities and supplies for sports, music and dance. Hiler said it is important for children to be able to stay in their activities during a stressful time for the family and exercise is good for kids.

Fourth is the Faith Counts program.

“If a family hasn't been connected to church, we do that by praying for them,” Hiler said. “Every bit of added energy can be helpful.”

Fifth is the emergency fund, which covers travel expenses, gas cards, hotels and some funeral expenses.

“It is sad," Hiler said about those final needs. “Even car repair or home repair can be funded if that will help the family to be near a patient in extreme cases.”

Applications can be accessed through the web site, www.thepiggybackfoundation.org, if you know a family in need.

“Some applications come through hospitals. Most families come from north central Ohio. A mix of neighbors, friends and family usually refer those who can use a boost, but are too proud to ask,” Hiler said.

Originally, garage sales funded the Piggyback Foundation.

Cutting for the Cause, a yearly event put on especially for the foundation, has raised more than $80,000 to carry on all the aforementioned programs. When Pigs Fly itself now supports the PBF on a monthly basis for all the ongoing fees and expenses. It is entirely staffed by volunteers, with most of the items being donated by a generous local community.

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