Jess's introduction to childhood cancer happened when a mutual friend introduced her to Rick Parish in June 2010. She met his son Elliot, who later lost his battle with Medullablastoma in February 2011, at just 4 years old. Jess promised Rick she would raise $20 000 for research by joining his Telethon Adventurers in Chamonix, France. She also met Blake (diagnosed with Anaplastic Ependymoma) while volunteering at the Ronald MacDonald House.
Jess says "I just knew I had to do something. I couldn't unsee childhood cancer. My hunger to make a difference only grew with each passing day."
Having met many families touched by childhood cancer through her fundraising and volunteering experiences, the thing that struck Jess most was the lack of support for the families. She saw many great charities for the kids, from Make a Wish to Radio Lollipop, the Clown Doctors to the Starlight Foundation and beyond, but the families needed help too. Many didn't have family or friends close by who could help. They needed community based support - help with any number of things ranging from babysitting to gardening, cleaning to school drop offs, cooking meals to washing and ironing. Jess wanted to provide volunteers to these families so they could spend their valuable time with their kids, where they ought to be.
So in May 2012, Jess started Dial an Elf as a university project, while studying nursing.
Then, in July 2012, just 2 days before his first birthday, Rhiannon's son was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. During their initial stay in hospital, Rhiannon received an anonymous card from Dial an Elf, offering help with day to day tasks such as cleaning, gardening, walking dogs, grocery shopping - all things which naturally fall by the wayside when a child is in and out of hospital.
Although she was fortunate enough to have plenty of family help and a very short time in treatment, Rhiannon became painfully aware that there are many families who are not so lucky.
After her son went into remission, Rhiannon felt desperate to do something to help, to grow something positive from the awful experience of childhood cancer. That card became her inspiration, and she and Jess got together to make the dream of Dial an Elf a reality.