MD Anderson’s young adult cancer survivors kicked off Adolescent and Young Adult (AYA) Cancer Awareness week with a retreat at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort and Spa outside of Austin, March 29-April 1. Funded by a $50,000 grant from Austin-based businesswoman and philanthropist Kendra Scott, the retreat offered health and wellness activities while giving more than 20 cancer survivors an opportunity to connect and bond with their peers.
Scott and her team hosted a welcome party with hors d’oeuvres and mocktails, signature gifts, photo booth fun, a mobile Color Bar™ and a visit with the designer, who shared her personal story and connection to MD Anderson.
“We wanted to identify the gaps in pediatric oncology support and found that many programs aren’t catered toward young adults,” says Scott, whose stepfather was treated for brain cancer at MD Anderson. “We host a lot of events that touch the lives of young cancer patients and survivors, but this is the first time our focus has been on young adults.”
MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital’s Camps and Special Events team and the AYA Program organized recreational games and activities, art, horseback riding, yoga, dance, intimate chats, mindfulness, a scavenger hunt, hiking and nature trails and teambuilding activities including an Iron Chef cooking competition.
“This extensive experience enabled us to meet the unique needs of patients transitioning into adulthood,” says Tomika Gamble, program manager for Camps and Special Events at MD Anderson. “We are extremely appreciative of the support Kendra Scott has shown to our younger population, and now our young adult population also is benefiting from her extraordinary generosity.”
This is Scott’s fifth year to support MD Anderson. The Kendra Cares Program, which started at MD Anderson, brings the Color Bar™ to hospitals for pediatric patients and families. Kendra Scott also accessorizes MD Anderson’s teen patients for the annual Prom Party Palooza. Last September, Scott unveiled her Texas charm. Half of the proceeds benefit pediatric patient programs, opening an opportunity to fund MD Anderson’s first hospital-led retreat for young adult cancer survivors, a group often overlooked.
MD Anderson treats approximately 7,000 adolescent and young adult patients ages 15-29 each year. The retreat is part of the AYA Program’s strategic plan to offer comprehensive, focused services and care designed for this unique population.
“I often hear from young adult patients that isolation is one of the biggest issues they struggle with,” says Wendy Griffith, program manager, AYA Program, and co-chair, Young Adult Advisory Council. “We are thrilled to provide them with the opportunity to spend a weekend sharing advice and experiences while having fun and trying new things. That’s what the AYA Program is all about.”