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Wonders & Worries gives families
peace of mind

The story

“You took care of my child so I could focus on my own healing.”

No sentiment better captures the heart of Wonders & Worries. The Texas-based nonprofit’s mission is to provide free, professional support to children aged 2-18 who have a parent afflicted by serious illness or injury so they can reach their full potential.

The idea for the organization began decades ago with Co-founders and Child Life Specialists Meredith Cooper and Melissa Hicks. In 2001, the co-creators led a pilot group in Austin, Texas, to support children of families navigating cancer and later formed the nonprofit. The partners’ background in helping kids cope with their own diagnosis and treatment signaled a lack of support for children during parental illness. 

Cooper said the nonprofit’s name speaks to its mission because “children wonder about what’s happening with their parents during a serious illness and worry about what’s going to happen to them.” That’s why the organization’s primary focus is facilitating communication within the family. Child life professionals guide parents in gently speaking with their children about the effects of their illness on an age-appropriate level.

The staff also works with children and teens one-on-one. “Our six-session illness education curriculum is clinically validated and the mainstay of our programming. We want to facilitate the feelings that children and teenagers are having around the changes occurring in the family and provide positive coping skills to address the anger, fear or worry they may be experiencing,” Cooper said.

Wonders & Worries offers parenting classes and consultations, individual and group sessions for children, and family fun events – all free of charge. Likewise, they empower families with tools and strategies through their mobile app for parents, a parenting podcast, webinars and a helpline. Families also have the option to receive in-person or virtual care in English or Spanish.

The comfort and relief Wonders & Worries provides families is a remarkable gift – a  gift Executive Director Alex Gabbi knows all too well. When his wife, Heather, was diagnosed with advanced late-stage ovarian cancer, a neighbor who worked for Wonders & Worries told him about the organization. His eldest son and daughter completed the illness education curriculum in group sessions. In addition, his daughter did monthly check-ins for the three years her mom was sick and a year after she died.

Still, the impact of Wonders & Worries is a gift that keeps giving. “The tools that my children learned going through the program have been applicable in so many other areas of life that create stress,” Gabbi said. He’s watched his children use the coping skills they developed to “pay it forward to other kids going through similar things because they knew what to do.”

After receiving support, “it was impossible not to stay involved,” Gabbi continued. His involvement grew from raising funds for Wonders & Worries in Heather’s memory to serving on the finance committee before becoming executive director.

One of his first decisions in managing the organization’s operations was partnering with Insperity. After working with Insperity at previous startup companies, Gabbi knew Wonders & Worries could benefit from outsourcing HR functions to a professional employer organization (PEO). He shared that having a team of dedicated HR specialists to help with payroll processing, talent management, employee engagement and benefit plan sponsorship allows Wonders & Worries staff to “spend time focusing on things that deliver value to families without having to worry about human resources.”

“Whenever we have a question about HR, Insperity is our first call.”

And while it can be challenging for nonprofits to compete against the salaries of corporations, Insperity has helped Wonders & Worries gain a talent advantage in the marketplace. Through partnering with the PEO, the organization has been able to “develop and deliver benefit programs to differentiate” itself from the competition.

Gabbi also appreciates the way both organizations’ values align. “(Insperity) cares about the communities they operate in. They care about companies and think about them more as partners, and we view our relationships the same way.” “I continue to have high hopes for this partnership going forward because we’re in perfect lockstep and alignment (with Insperity) at every level.”

Community impact

When the Wonders & Worries staff received the news the nonprofit had been named an Insperity Community Hero, “it was a tremendous honor, and we were just ecstatic about it,” Cooper said. “It was lovely to realize that the work that we’ve been doing is recognized and valued in the community.”

The recognition and $5,000 donation couldn’t have come at a more optimal time, with the organization having expanded its services to seven offices around Austin, San Antonio and Houston, Texas. “This is going to help us reach so many more people” and “spread awareness of the importance of children receiving support during a parent’s illness or injury.”

The organization sets its sights nationally with a vision to help any family in need. Through its Registered Wonders & Worries Provider program, a network of certified child life specialists and mental health professionals are trained to deliver the nonprofit’s curriculum. The program has providers in over 35 states – and extends to several countries outside the U.S., like Japan. Wonders & Worries’ certified specialists are also available nationwide through the nonprofit’s warm line, 1-844-WE-WONDER, staffed Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

In its 22-year existence, Wonders & Worries has served more than 14,000 children and parents, and the future looks brighter than ever for the nonprofit. The staff said it looks forward to serving more families and achieving even greater success with Insperity in their corner.

“Insperity is already everywhere we want to be. They’re built-in human resources, benefits and programs at scale. It doesn’t matter whether we have 20 or 200 people, they’re going to be there for us,” Gabbi said.

“I continue to have high hopes for this partnership going forward because we’re in perfect lockstep and alignment (with Insperity) at every level.”

Alex Gabbi
Executive Director
Wonders & Worries