by Karen Wheeler
The holidays are over, but more than 300 pediatric cancer patients and other seriously ill children retain a bit of seasonal magic after hospital visits from Colorado State University volunteers and donors.
About two dozen volunteers tied to the CSU Flint Animal Cancer Center visited children who were hospitalized in metro Denver and northern Colorado during the holidays. Through the effort, 320 children received “One Cure” plush toy dogs, $50 Amazon.com gift cards, and encouragement from a 6-foot-tall One Cure canine mascot.
The youngsters and their families also received a powerful message: Cancer is a single disease that strikes both animals and people; through increasingly collaborative research, human cancer doctors and cancer veterinarians learn vastly more about the disease and aspire for a single cure to help all species.
Dr. Lia Gore, a pediatric oncologist at Children’s Hospital Colorado, shared with volunteers the impact of their effort: “Your visit last week made for an overwhelmingly wonderful day. I was on call this weekend when one of the kids, whom we saw together, said to me, ‘Those people who gave me this dog, can you tell them that I bought my mom a Christmas present with the card they gave me? I didn't think I could give her Christmas this year because I've been in here, but now I did!’”
The children visited ranged in age from 10 months old to 16 years old; most had some form of cancer, while others were hospitalized for blood disorders and serious trauma. A few of the young patients had undergone bone-marrow transplants.
Holly Tugman, a child life specialist at Rocky Mountain Hospital for Children, said the hospital releases as many children as possible to spend the holidays at home with their families.
“That isn’t possible for everyone, so we try to make the holidays as cheerful and positive as we can,” Tugman told volunteers during their visit on Dec. 17. “What you are doing today is wonderful and much-appreciated.”
Pediatric patients – lying in hospital beds, being cradled by parents, or playing with visiting siblings – grinned with pleasure as they received the toy dogs. Their families also expressed heartfelt thanks at the unexpected gifts.
“This time of year is so hard for families with a hospitalized child. An unexpected gesture of generosity is deeply appreciated and long remembered,” said Pam Whitaker, executive director for Ronald McDonald House Charities of Denver.
Inspiration and funding for the One Cure hospital visits came from Brett and Nan Stuart, a brother and sister whose family is a major financial donor to the Flint Animal Cancer Center and its work. Brett Stuart has undergone cancer treatment and wanted to do something surprising, fun and meaningful for pediatric cancer patients who are hospitalized during the holidays.
Adding volunteers to the project were Code 3 Associates, a nonprofit founded by Nan Stuart that provides professional animal disaster response and related services; and C.H. Robinson Worldwide Inc., a leading third-party logistics provider.
Meg Cowan, a client of the CSU Animal Cancer Center, launched the One Cure initiative in 2009 to support translational cancer research, meaning studies that provide vital information in the battle against cancer in both people and animals. The One Cure initiative helps raise money for CSU’s Oncology Comparative Clinical Trials Program, a collaborative research project that involves specialists in human and veterinary oncology.
Volunteers with the One Cure hospital project visited pediatric cancer patients and their families at:
To learn more or to donate to One Cure, visit this website.