By Emily Rasmussen
Kelsey Testman, who grew up in San Juan Capistrano, remembers how difficult it was for her family in 2015 when her brother Kyle, at 24 years old, died unexpectedly.
The dread of having to say goodbye to a family member lost at a young age was hard enough, but having to deal with funeral expenses and planning a service brought on added stress to Testman’s family. Despite the hurdles, Testman said the funeral service brought her and the family closure and helped to keep her brother’s memory alive.
“I feel like it’s nice to see people come out, hear stories you never knew,” Testman said. “I got to know my brother from that experience.”
Already setting high hopes at a young age to become a doctor—specifically, a pediatric oncologist—Testman said that through her family’s experience with death, in addition to the hardships she’s seen volunteering at Miller Children’s Hospital in Long Beach, she felt inspired to do more for families.
“I just had something in me that I needed to help them,” Testman said. “Seeing these cancer patients firsthand, you see how families lose their jobs (due to doctors’ visits and medical expenses), it’s difficult, so I wanted to help them in any way that I could.”
Testman, 22, became inspired to create a nonprofit that helps families with funeral service expenses for families who lose children to cancer. Testman, a recent graduate of the University of San Diego, said she wants to give families the kind of closure that her family as able to have with her brother’s service. The thought of how horrible it would feel to not be able to have a service for someone’s child due to financial burdens stuck with Testman.
“I didn’t know a funeral could cost so much,” Testman said of her brother’s funeral.
In October 2017, Testman founded the Forever With Us Foundation to serve pediatric cancer families from Miller’s Children Hospital to help provide families funds, by donating directly to mortuaries to provide funds directly to the child’s funeral.
Now, as the nonprofit is growing, Testman is in the process trying to work with patients at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County.
Although the Forever With Us Foundation has not been needed to provide funds to a funeral service yet, Testman said she is working directly with social works of both hospitals to find families that need assistance with funeral expenses.
“My main goal is for no family who has been through the worst, to have a child with cancer and to lose them, to not be able to honor their child,” Testman said.
Testman said that most funeral homes will estimate $10,000 minimum for a child’s funeral, but the cost can be significantly higher. Having raised $10,000 within the nonprofit so far, Testman said that once there is a family who needs help, they will be able to donate $1,000 per funeral as of now.
However, as the nonprofit continues to grow, Testman hopes to give more.
If you’re interested in donating, you can go to the Forever With Us Foundation website at www.foreverwus.org, where you can directly donate and/or buy clothing that goes toward the nonprofit.