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Helping Hands

Family Matters - Summer 2009

Fighting Cancer One Toga Party at a Time

Growing up, James Ragan never had big birthday parties like some of the other kids in his Corpus Christi neighborhood.James with his nurse, Peggy, and sister, Mecklin However, when he finally decided to have a birthday party, he didn’t just invite the kids in his class, he invited almost the entire city.

Instead of asking for gifts, the 13-year-old asked each guest to donate money toward pediatric cancer research at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center — a gift that could potentially save his life and many other pediatric patients battling his same type of bone cancer, osteosarcoma.

Because “Animal House” is one of his favorite movies, James, with the help of his sister Mecklin, opted to make his birthday fundraiser a toga-themed party. Since the first party in 2007 that raised more than $40,000, the event has grown to include a golf tournament. In the past two years, they have raised close to $200,000, with more than $166,000 going directly toward osteosarcoma research at the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson.

James presenting a check to the Children's Cancer Hospital“I can’t tell you how happy it makes me to be able to contribute,” says James, now age16. “This is my chance to help patients that face even tougher situations than me and to help the doctors progress with their cancer research.”

James was a competitive tennis player prior to being diagnosed with cancer, but a limb salvage surgery forced him to hang up his racket. Refusing to be sidelined, he took up the sport of golf and now plays regularly, giving him the idea to add a golf tournament to the fundraiser.

“I love the golf tourney, but my favorite part of the event is at the end of the night,” says James. “By then, it’s just my doctors, nurses, some fellow patients and close friends and family hanging around. That’s when I get to sit back and take it all in. I’m truly humbled by everyone’s support.”


Hotel ZaZa Partners with In-Hospital SchoolPatients get a cooking class at Hotel ZaZa

Patients enrolled in the Children’s Cancer Hospital education program experienced a special treat during the school year thanks to Hotel ZaZa located near Houston’s museum district. In coordination with the nutrition unit that the students had been studying, the hotel invited the class on a behind-the-scenes tour of Hotel ZaZa, which ended with a fun cooking class for the students with the hotel’s chef. Hotel ZaZa also hosted a special dinner in May to celebrate the students’ completion of their school year.

Mary Kay Directors Treat Mothers at the Children’s Cancer Hospital

Mary Kay directors deliver gifts to patient families for Mother's DayHolidays can be particularly tough for patients and families admitted to the Children’s Cancer Hospital inpatient unit. 

To brighten up a special day just for mothers, several Mary Kay directors and consultants from the Houston area gathered to deliver more than 100 baskets filled with Mary Kay products to mothers of children being treated in the hospital. It was a much appreciated Mother’s Day treat for the patients and their mothers.

UT Cycling Group Travels 4000 Miles to Benefit Young Adults with Cancer

Don’t try to tell Chris Condit it’s impossible for one person to have an impact in the fight against cancer. Condit ¬is founderTexas 4000 cyclists visit with young patients of Sense Corp Texas 4000, a nonprofit organization that has raised more than $1 million for cancer research through an annual 4,500-mile, 70-day bike ride from Texas to Alaska.

Texas 4000 has pledged $500,000 through 2011 to M. D. Anderson, with a large portion of that benefiting research within the adolescent and young adult program at the Children’s Cancer Hospital. The group visits the Children’s Cancer Hospital during the year to present a check and meet the patients they ride to help.

Brenham Students Raise Funds for a Year to Help Families Facing Cancer

To help defray the cost of parking and meals for families of patients in the Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson, the Brenham chapter of Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) recently contributed $4,000 to Adam’s Angels Ministry. 

FCCLA group donates funds to help families facing cancerFCCLA members Dylana Watford, Taylor Whittaker and Rebecca Wellman, along with FCCLA sponsor Linda Thaler, presented a check in April for parking passes and meal tickets to be purchased by Adam’s Angels Ministry through Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation.

Adam’s Angels, founded by Donna and Tim Culliver, serves families of children diagnosed with cancer as well as those having lost a child to cancer, offering physical, emotional, financial and spiritual support. When the Brenham FCCLA chapter chose childhood cancers as a service project and began considering community programs to support, Adam’s Angels seemed the perfect fit. The project recently won first place in a statewide FCCLA competition.

Pet Burro Goes to the Top of the Class in South Carolina

A burro, a large group of elementary school students and a teacher’s unique idea resulted in a donation of $3,000 to theRobin Polasek partners with a burro to raise funds for pediatric patients Children’s Cancer Hospital at M. D. Anderson. Teacher Robin Polasek and her husband, Daniel, a melanoma survivor, started a fundraiser at Robin’s school. They challenged students at Buist Academy to raise at least $50 in their class in order to get their teacher to kiss a burro.

The idea was met with plenty of enthusiasm from the students, who together raised $1,500, which was matched by a parent’s company, bringing the total to $3,000. The result — students got to watch 25 teachers and the school principal make good on their promise. To read more about this unique fundraiser, check out the entire donor story online.

Houston Zoo Gives Pediatric Patients a Special Tour

Patients in pediatric education program get a special look at Houston ZooThe Houston Zoo hosted patients from the Children’s Cancer Hospital’s education program on a special behind-the-scenes tour in May. With the help of Leon Benavides from the Children’s Art Project and zoo staff, the patients began their day by creating paper mâché animals stuffed with red meat to feed to the exotic cats.

While on their tour, students saw the giraffes and a number of other animals. The highlight came when the patients were able to get close enough to feed and pet one of the elephants. While the children ate a lunch provided by the zoo, the staff showed off some smaller animals and reptiles, and taught them about the operations and mission of the zoo.

In This Issue

Tips for Caregivers: Help Your Next Clinic Visit Run More Smoothly

A Survivor's Story: Garrett and Gatlin Stringer

Behind the Scene: Andrea Hayes-Jordan

A Patient's Voice: Emily Garcia

Medical Matters: Pediatric Research Spotlighted at National Conference

Helping Hands: Fighting Cancer One Toga Party at a Time

Family-Centered Care: We Need Your Input

Art Corner: Children's Art Project Brings Special Canine Guests for a Visit

What's New: Check out a list of upcoming events with the Children's Cancer Hospital

Support for You: Summer Programs Bring Fun Memories for Patients and Siblings

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