When Mindy Atwood organized a fundraiser 10 years ago to help families with sick children, she never dreamed she would find a calling.

When Mindy Atwood organized a fundraiser 10 years ago to help families with sick children, she never dreamed she would find a calling.

Atwood and her husband, Rodney, knew firsthand how devastating a child's illness could be, so they wanted to reach out to other parents. But when she realized how many families needed help, the Hilliard resident knew she wanted to do more.

Today, Atwood, 52, serves as chief executive officer of Patches of Light, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping the parents of critically and terminally ill children. The Hilliard-based organization provides financial assistance to families who are struggling to make ends meet while caring for their kids. The agency pays household or medical expenses for families referred to it by hospital social workers.

Atwood, a media assistant at Hilliard Station Sixth Grade School, runs the organization without pay.

"Patches has saved patients from homelessness," said Faye Bullio, a Nationwide Children's Hospital social worker and Patches of Light board member. "Mindy has been tirelessly devoted to this effort. She is the spark."

Atwood understands how quickly medical bills and other expenses accumulate. Her son Jason is a cancer survivor and her other son, Michael, had open-heart surgery as a child. "People assume if you have insurance you're going to be OK," she said. The reality, though, is that debt mounts from missed work and uncovered expenses.

"It's just amazing what families are going through," she said. "In the beginning, I was crying all the time."

The agency raises about $40,000 a year through various fundraisers, including a walk-a-thon, a volleyball tournament, a penny drive and a Ducky Derby.

Amy Browning, whose son has leukemia, said Patches of Light has given her Hilliard family breathing room. She greatly admires Atwood's dedication to the cause. "There's no anger, no regret. She took what she was dealt and made something good of it," Browning said. "That's a hero."

But even a heroine has her limits.

"We do just about anything," Atwood said--with perhaps one exception. "I always say we don't do windows."