"It's become a part of our life": Children's cancer charity helps families – with the HOLZMA smart

"HOLZMA is going to donate a smart fortwo, and you can help decide who receives it." This announcement was made at the HOLZMA Treff 2012 and suggestions flooded in during the course of this in-house expo. The jury decided just before Christmas that the smart would be donated to the Dingolfing-Landshut-Landau children's cancer charity and they have been using it since January. The official handover, however, took place on 22 March in front of an audience of politicians and business people. In addition to representatives from the children's cancer charity and HOLZMA, Josef Eibl, who put forward the suggestion, was there with his family, as was the Mayoress of Aham, Elisabeth Kobold, and Dingolfing District Administrator, Heinrich Trapp. Having had frequent telephone discussions in the run-up to the event, all the participants were very much looking forward to meeting each other in person.

"If I learnt one thing this Friday, then it's this," said HOLZMA managing director, Holger Bomm, "when people are faced with death, they focus on living life." The father of little Gabriel painted a vivid picture of the impact this has on day-to-day family life. At seven months, the baby boy was diagnosed with leukemia and has been fighting the disease along with his family for two years now. Even on the day of the official handover, Gabriel had to go into hospital again. His family was the first to use the smart fortwo donated by HOLZMA for some of the numerous journeys to and from hospital and it helped to make their life just that little bit easier.


Practical assistance for 75 families

Sadly, the position Gabriel and his family are in is not unique. Ulrike Eckhart, first chairperson of the Dingolfing-Landshut-Landau children's cancer charity and two of her fellow campaigners, Johanna Ohlenforst and Ute Numberger, spoke of many other children and families in similar situations. Consisting of seven active committee members, the charity currently supports 75 families in total. Each sick child and their family are appointed a sponsor from the committee, who acts as their main point of contact. 75 divided by seven – we can only begin to imagine what this means in practice.

"I look after about 20 families," Ulrike Eckhart told us. "This includes some families who need a lot of support, and others with whom I have less contact – it really varies." In addition to financial support and practical help with everyday life, one of the most important services the charity provides is a listening ear. As such, the committee members are always available – they visit the families regularly, speak to them on the telephone and are there to listen around the clock. This requires a great deal of commitment and understanding from all involved, including the families of the committee members.


A helping hand in the form of a smart fortwo from HOLZMA

"In the last two weeks, we have had 15 new cases," said Ulrike Eckhart. This has brought the charity close to its limits, both financially and in terms of personnel. The children's cancer charity provides help for affected families in areas which are not adequately serviced by the state system.

Some health insurance schemes, for example, will cover the cost of travel to have chemotherapy, but not to have blood taken or for an examination. It doesn't take long for the gas bills to mount up, particularly living in the district of Dingolfing-Landshut-Landau, where the nearest children's oncology departments are in Munich and Regensburg, resulting in regular trips of 150–200 km. DLL children's cancer charity helps by covering the gas costs. And since 2013, they have been able to provide the smart fortwo too for families who do not have a car, or who have to use their car in order to get to work. "We would never have thought of getting a car," says Ulrike Eckhart, laughing, "but now that we have one, we have come up with lots of different uses for it."


Carpentry company Schreinerei Eibl shares in the delight of the children's cancer charity

Just before Christmas, the HOLZMA jury reached a decision and it was clear from the first call to Schreinerei Eibl that it was the right one: "Mr. Eibl, your colleague Robert Wölflick and you submitted a suggestion...," explained the HOLZMA employee and was not able to finish her sentence before Josef Eibl exclaimed, "Wow, I just can't believe it!" Just short of an hour later, he had already informed all of his colleagues and by the next day had arranged for Mayoress Elisabeth Kobold and District Administrator Heinrich Trapp to be present at the handover of the donation.

Schreinerei Eibl's enthusiasm and commitment were also evident on the day the donation was officially presented. All three generations of the family business were there and had organized the afternoon perfectly. HOLZMA had already made the smart fortwo available to the children's cancer charity in January, so that it could start to provide practical assistance and relief to the first families as soon as possible. Gabriel's father also finds the costly travel a drain: "At one point, we decided to move so that we didn't have to travel so far." Now they "only" have to drive 150 km to get to Munich, instead of 250 km. He adds, not without some irony, "If we didn't have all this travelling to do along with the hospital stays, we wouldn't know what to do with our time. All the hope and fear — it's become a part of our life."


Help that reaches people

The volunteer chairpeople of the children's charity share the ups and downs and provide valuable assistance. This commitment helped HOLZMA decide who the smart fortwo should be donated to. "We wanted to give the smart to an organization that really needed the car for its work — regardless of whether the suggestion came from an employee or a customer, and if it were a customer, then it didn't matter which one," stated HOLZMA's HR manager Günter Gegenheimer, stressing the fact that they had achieved this goal. The jury consisted of HOLZMA employees from various different divisions of the company. The Sales division was deliberately not included.


From left: Josef Eibl with his son; Johanna Ohlenforst, second chairperson of the children's cancer charity; Ulrike Eckhart, first chairperson of the children's cancer charity; Gabriel Kinanga, father of sick Gabriel and first user of the smart donated by HOLZMA; Heinrich Trapp, Dingolfing District Administrator; Holger Bomm, managing director of HOLZMA Plattenaufteiltechnik GmbH; Ute Numberger, treasurer of the children's cancer charity; Elisabeth Kobold, Mayoress of Aham.

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