All newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patients at the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta will now get a little something to help make them smile despite the grim diagnosis.
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Dancing While Cancering will be providing age-appropriate backpacks called Smile Packs that include a Bluetooth speaker, musical instruments, drawing pads or journals, a blanket and lots of streamers to decorate the room.
Scott and Pammy Kramer came up with the idea after losing their 3-year-old daughter Maddie to a rare and aggressive form of cancer called AT/RT last year. They created the foundation in her memory to be an inspiration for others.
“Maddie was just a light—just a beautiful ray of sunshine. If you found her in her hospital room when she was diagnosed at just 2-and-a-half-years old, you wouldn’t have known she was sick,” says Scott.
That’s because the couple danced and sang with her and decorated her room at Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago.
“There would be streamers on the ceiling, paper disco balls (that) we’d put on the IV poles and the curtain hooks, (and) books on the window sills. We really tried to make it a home,” he tells WSB’s Sandra Parrish.
CHOA is the 11th hospital in seven states to get the Smile Packs, thanks in part to Dr. Jason Fangusaro who was Maddie’s neuro oncologist in Chicago but now works at CHAO.
“To see a family who has gone through what they’ve gone through--it’s so easy to say, ‘no more hospitals for me, I don’t want to deal with cancer’. And yet, what they have done is pay it forward and honor Maddie and help the next family that comes in the hospital,” he says.
Becca Doobrow, a child life specialist at CHOA, says the Smile Packs will make a difference to kids who get that cancer diagnosis.
“These backpacks will be really, really beneficial in bringing just a little bit of light, and play, and promoting that joy that you might not see as much in the hospital when you receive that bad news,” she says.