Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Sunshine Kids Let Some Fun Inside

If you've ever read The Fault In Our Stars by John Green, you have a sense of how being a kid with cancer changes one's perspective. His story might be fiction, but the affliction isn't. More than 12,000 children are diagnosed every year in the United States and the prognosis is slowly creeping upward.

One of the many places where his novel touches a nerve is in capturing the loneliness and depression that many children experience while facing death before their lives have begun. He didn't make this up. It touches on the truth.

It is the same condition that Rhoda Tomasco noticed in 1982 while serving as a volunteer in the pediatric cancer unit of a hospital in Houston, Texas. So she decided to do something.

Sunshine Kids helps the fun shine in for kids with cancer. 

Tomasco had a vision. She wanted to provide these young cancer patients with opportunities to participate in positive group activities to raise their self-esteem, give them a sense of personal accomplishment, and let them experience the fun of being a kid without the weight of world.

The Sunshine Kids accomplishes this mission by hosting hospital parties for oncology patients and their families at more than 20 hospitals around the United States, planning regional events across the country, and arranging national trips throughout the year. The adventures are as diverse as the children themselves and there is no cost to participate.

Typical events include attending hockey games and sporting events, visiting the sets of television shows, or participating in parties, picnics, and other participatory activities. One of their most recent regional outings, for example, included attending the USA Olympic Team swim trials in Nebraska. Earlier this year, the Sunshine Kids met up for a 5-day skiing trip in Colorado.

The point, as many of the kids themselves often say, is that these opportunities are like vacations from their illness. The organization empowers them to be kids while helping them see that they aren't alone.

"I cried as soon as I got home. You guys do something amazing for us that we don't get anywhere else. You bring us all together with other people who have the same thing in common with us, and that's fighting for our lives..." Patrick Betters.

Since its earliest beginnings when Tomasco organized what must have seemed like an impossible journey — the first amputee ski trip for young patients at the M.D. Andersen Cancer Center — Sunshine Kids has grown to become a well-respected national organization. And the board of directors today now reads like an accomplished list of who's who in medical, media, entertainment, and business (including Tomasco).

The pin that Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio wore. 

In addition to its dedicated board and staff, retired second baseman for the Houston Astros, Craig Biggio, has served for years and years as the foundation's national spokesperson. And in this role, Biggio does everything except play from the bench.

While he has made numerous personal contributions to the foundation and helped it raise more than $1 million, Biggio also invites the kids to play baseball with the Astros every year and frequently visits the foundation's Sunshine house. He's been doing it for 20 years.

Although he is probably the best known spokesperson, Biggio isn't alone. Every year, the foundation invites three more people to serve as national spokespeople, patients and survivors who have helped inspire other kids facing the same tough decisions.

This year, they include Ben Hu, Mariana Monzon, and Brenna Huckaby; all three have compelling stories. Hu was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009, Monzon with leukemia in 2009, and Huckaby (pictured above), a high ranking competitive gymnast, with a tumor in her right distill femur in 2010.

She was faced with the choice between her leg or her life. Shortly after the surgery, Sunshine Kids helped remind her how to live it again at a water park event. Now, she mostly enjoys snowboarding.

The Sunshine Kids Is A Good Will Pick By Liquid Hip. 

At least once a month, Liquid [Hip] highlights good will efforts undertaken by courageous people with big hearts. We don't score them. That belongs to you.

We picked the Sunshine Kids because it is filled with courageous people with big hearts, beginning with Tomasco, who had the courage to found the organization, and then continuing on with the dozens of volunteers, staff, and board members. But even more memorable than these generous supporters are the most courageous advocates of the foundation — the kids. And that's pretty cool.

The Sunshine Kids is a national nonprofit organization that is funded by private and corporate donations, civic clubs,  philanthropic foundations, memorial donations, and people like you. For more information about the Sunshine Kids visit their website. In addition to information about the organization, you will find dozens of inspired stories written by the kids themselves.
blog comments powered by Disqus