Helping families in need

From left: Summer Flynn-Miller, Dr. Chris O'Donohoe, Mac Flynn-Miller and mom Sue at Children's Memorial Hospital in Lincoln, Chicago.

After losing her own son to leukemia, Sue Flynn started a foundation that helps families with sick children and those dealing with the aftermath of a child’s death.

By Yayoi Lena Winfrey/Special to The Malibu Times

Losing a child is a devastating experience for any family, but the nightmare of being unprepared for funeral and burial expenses only adds to the grief. The Mac Flynn-Miller Foundation, among other things, helps parents cope with unexpected expenditures that arise from a child’s sudden death, especially following a lengthy and costly illness. It was started by Sue Flynn, who lost her son, Mac, to leukemia when he was just 10.

Although numerous organizations help children while they are still alive, The Mac Flynn-Miller Foundation is unique in that assists survivors who must often deal with the aftermath of an unforeseeable calamity.

“It’s not just a corporate thing,” said Summer Germann, Flynn’s daughter. “We really care about everyone who comes to us.”

Germann started the foundation with her mother last Christmas. The foundation helps families with children who have leukemia and other pediatric cancers by providing services for them. It is there for the families in the unfortunate circumstance that the child dies by providing funds for funeral expenses and memorials or, as Flynn prefers to call them, “the celebration of life.”

The foundation’s Mac A Wish Division fulfills the desires of sick children by granting them wishes. The first one granted was to a child who requested an audience with pro wrestler-turned-actor, Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

The foundation’s namesake died in 2002 from leukemia. In 2001, what was supposed to have been a trip to attend his sister’s wedding turned to tragedy for

9-year-old Mac Flynn-Miller. Shortly after his arrival in Johnsburg, Ill., doctors discovered the persistent sore throat Mac was diagnosed with before leaving Santa Monica was actually a symptom of leukemia.

He ended up at Chicago’s Children’s Memorial Hospital for the next 14 months, where he underwent 30 surgeries, seven rounds of chemotherapy, total body radiation and two separate bone marrow/stem-cell transplants. Later, the cancer appeared to be in remission and Mac was scheduled for discharge, but tragically a nephrology error sent an air bubble from a tube into his lungs during renal dialysis, killing Mac.

“It was an accident,” Flynn said. “It wasn’t anyone’s fault.”

It was ten months before Flynn could admit that her son had died. In that time, she allowed herself to, as she said, “grieve horrifically,” and even felt she would die herself from the pain. Then, one day, Flynn met someone she said was in a worse situation.

Striking up a friendship with a woman from her church, Flynn learned her new acquaintance had not only lost her son to cancer, but was suffering from the disease herself. That encounter led Flynn to the idea of creating The Mac Flynn-Miller Foundation. She became deeply committed to helping families deal with catastrophes similar to hers and her friend’s. Flynn said she was then breathing again with a renewed purpose.

“I’ve always just been a mom that loved kids,” Flynn said. “Now, (the foundation’s) my cause. I’ve got to make it good for Mac.”

All contributions to the Mac Flynn-Miller Foundation are tax deductible. Contact Sue Flynn or Summer Flynn-German at 310.849.5448 or 310.396.2476. E-mail: