Joseph Rippo, Staff Writer

KiDS NEED M♥RE is a nonprofit organization committed to bringing happiness and bettering the lives of children and their families that are affected by cancer and other life-threatening illnesses. It was started by Melissa Firms and John Ray, who dedicate their lives every day to this amazing cause.

Melissa Firms was a student-teacher here in Lindenhurst at Alleghany Avenue in her early twenties. The summer after she started teaching fourth grade there, she decided to volunteer at Camp Adventure, a sleepaway camp for children with cancer that was run by the American Cancer Society. While she was there, Melissa was deeply touched by the strength and determination of the children and by the wonderful people that volunteered there. As the years went on, Melissa had changed her profession from a teacher to a social worker and continued to volunteer every summer at Camp Adventure. However, in 2014, the camp was defunded, which devastated Melissa. She and her husband John Ray, who was also a volunteer at Camp Adventure, decided to start their own organization. In order to accomplish this, they needed to raise $300,000. In the summer of 2014, Melissa and John fulfilled this goal and started KiDS NEED M♥RE, in which the M♥RE stands for Motivational Recovery Environments.

One month following the creation of the organization, Melissa was faced with her own battle, as she was diagnosed with Leukemia, and needed a stem cell transplant right away. During the many months that Melissa was hospitalized, numerous families that she had met through volunteering at Camp Adventure would visit her to be by her side and bring her cheer. That is when her husband John decided to start the KiDS NEED M♥RE Cheer Bus for the holidays. In December of 2014, John and other volunteers took that one bus around and delivered a gift to each child that they had gotten to know through volunteering. Melissa defeated Leukemia, but was left with a lung condition requiring her to be on oxygen at all times. She wasn’t able to work anymore and made the decision to dedicate her entire life towards KiDS NEED M♥RE. Over the years, that one Cheer Bus has become thirty-five busses that grant holiday wishes to families affected by life-threatening illnesses. This year, these Cheer Busses will be going out on December 19th.

In the following summer of 2015, KiDS NEED M♥RE started a daytime camp of their own called Saddle Rock Camp. The camp was created free of charge for children that had been affected by life-threatening illnesses such as cancer in some way, whether they were going through it or someone in their close family.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, KiDS NEED M♥RE started a daily virtual camp online that engages children in activities such as art, storytime, and bingo. The organization also makes visits for birthdays and milestones as well as sending out teams of volunteers to families currently struggling to bring them some fun distractions during their difficult time such as playing video games, board games, baking with the family, etc.

During this holiday season, The Copiague Chamber of Commerce will host Kringle Town, in which KiDS NEED M♥RE will play a huge part. This fun event will be taking place starting December third for two weekends at The Village of Copiague every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 5 pm to 9:30 pm. The experience will have various rides, food, and live bands playing. Additionally, there will be a KiDS NEED M♥RE float where they will be collecting toys for this year’s cheer bus.

Overall, the KiDS NEED M♥RE organization is doing amazing things for its mission. If you would like to volunteer, donate to the cause, refer a family for the Holiday Cheer Bus, or just find out more information regarding this astonishing organization, you can visit their website at