In September 2016, my Soulful Flow Yoga Saturday class made a priority to donate class proceeds to different charities. In February 2017, we began our fundraising relationship with CCChampions.
In October 2016, I met representatives of CCChampions at a mindfulness workshop in Pittsburgh.
“We work with children who are diagnosed with cancer at UPMC,” explained founder Sidney Kushner.
After losing his childhood friend to cancer, Kushner struggled to find a way that would honor her memory. As a college student, Kushner then met 9-year-old Jenny at a Rhode Island hospital. Terrified about an upcoming bone marrow transplant, the young girl had just finished an unsuccessful and grueling round of chemotherapy.
Noticing her discomfort, Kushner asked her, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Her eyes brightening, she exclaimed, “I WANNA BE A DANCER!”
The two became friends, and CCChampions was born.
Friends are angels who lift us to our feet when our wings have trouble remembering how to fly. – Lorraine K. Mitchell
Implications of Childhood Illness
Kids diagnosed with a serious illness face fears, uncertainties, pain and frustration daily. Despite everyone’s best intentions, medical professionals sometimes slip into focusing on the logistics of treating the disease rather than treating the person with the disease.
During their treatment, these children are in survival mode. They might be confused, anxious or depressed. They might receive painful invasive treatments that are scarier than the illness. While hospitalized or in treatment, these children may feel isolated from friends, family and school.
Stuck in bed or exhausted, these children slowly morph from “just being a kid” to “being a patient with cancer.” Once in remission, these kids may fear the disease’s recurrence. Some feel “different from the person they were before cancer.” The illness has subtly changed them, and they want to feel normal again.
Patients Becoming Kids Again
CCChampions breaks this negative cycle by focusing on the future. The organization asks each child what they want to be when they grow up. They then find an adult role model to befriend the child. These adult heroes reintroduce these children and their families to wonder – and normalcy. These “cancer patients” become kids again.
- They are still Jenny, Lauren, Aiden and Avery. They are still Angelika, Chris, Katie and Anna.
- They are kids who to like to play games, color, paint their nails, and create Duck Tape art.
- They are kids who dream of becoming professional athletes.
- They are kids who want to design video games or become police officers.
Most importantly, these are kids whose well-being and dreams are more important than a diagnosis.
From their diagnosis until a year after their treatment ends, these children and their families have a friend to see them through the successes and uncertainties. They learn to cook, go on a ghost hunt or pitch a baseball. They dance, go to rodeos, and practice being Pokemon trainers. These children are introduced to a life beyond intravenous drips, blood counts and tests. Their heroes give them hope and fulfill some of their dreams.
How We Help
Another friendship was born in October 2016 – between CCChampions and Soulful Flow Yoga. Since February 2017, a portion of our annual class proceeds supports this magical program. Roy T. Bennett wrote: “Learn to light a candle in the darkest moments of someone’s life. Be the light that helps others see; it is what gives life its deepest significance.”
That significance comes with a lot of smiles.