Posts tagged ‘Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital’

THON support for pediatric research is even more than a dream come true

Dr. Valerie Brown, associate professor of pediatrics at Penn State College of Medicine, thought THON was too good to be true when she came to Hershey in late 2013.

“I just didn’t believe that this support existed,” she says. “It was a dream come true, but even more.”

THON, or the Penn State IFC/Panhellenic Dance Marathon, is an annual fundraising event that supports the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. The Four Diamonds Fund supports the families of children with cancer Children’s Hospital and pediatric cancer research at the College of Medicine. The 2014 THON, held this past weekend in State College, raised a record $13,343,517.33 for the Four Diamonds Fund.

Portrait of Valerie Brown, M.D., Ph.D.

Valerie Brown, M.D., Ph.D., clinical director of the Experimental Therapeutics Program at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital

With the help of THON and the Four Diamonds Fund, Dr. Brown is growing a cutting-edge experimental therapeutics program for pediatric patients with cancer and has brought the Neuroblastoma and Medulloblastoma Translational Research Consortium to Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. A consortium is a collaboration of physicians and scientists with different areas of expertise working together around a specific disease or type of disease. In a translational research approach, scientists and others work across their fields of study to move discoveries made in the laboratory to use in patients, and take what they learn with patient populations back to the lab for further study.

One of the goals of the consortium is to improve the outcomes for children with cancer by quickly determining a specialized treatment.

“A lot of treatment for patients with a disease that has come back or mutated is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic after it hits the iceberg,” says Dr. Brown. “You can’t avoid the iceberg, and so you need to have better lifeboats. Early phase clinical trials help us to build a better lifeboat.” (more…)

February 24, 2014 at 8:18 am Leave a comment

Teddy Bear adoptions provide opportunities to clear up hospital misconceptions with kids

Children learned how to properly swaddle their new teddy bears

Children learned how to properly swaddle their new teddy bears

Penny is a small, fuzzy gray bear with deep brown eyes who wears pink overalls with heart-shaped buttons. She has a floppy hat with an equally pink flower. Her first memory was waking up at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital nestled among her other bear and animal friends who were available for adoption at the Teddy Bear Clinic at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

Penny and her friends were in Hershey to celebrate Child Life week and to help the Child Life specialists talk to the children about their fears of hospitals and going to the doctor. Child Life specialist Carrie Myers, who organized the event, works in the emergency department and sees scared little patients all the time.

“This is a time when we, as Child Life Specialists and other medical professionals can address misconceptions children have about the hospital or medical procedures,” she said. “It also teaches them that the hospital can be a fun, safe place.”

Clara and Laura Wade (ages 3 and 1) from Williamsport, Pa, whose new baby brother was born with a ‘broken’ heart that the doctors needed to fix, took home two of Penny’s friends, Bear and Dog. The girls listened to their new friends’ heartbeats and took their temperatures as they visited the stations where nurses and therapists helped them give their bears checkups. They saw many of the same instruments that the staff uses when taking care of 14-day-old Timothy after his open heart surgery. Their dad, Martin, hoped the experience would help the girls understand their brother’s surgery and recovery. “I told them baby brother’s heart was broken and had to be fixed,” he said. “I think this will help them when he’s getting poked and prodded, to know that It’s all to make him healthy, not hurt him.”


April 2, 2013 at 2:13 pm 2 comments

The story of Sir Millard lives on through The Four Diamonds Fund and THON

You may know the legend of King Arthur, but chances are you do not know the story of Sir Millard, the evils he faced or the battles he won, even though every year, the new-age knights he has inspired take up his quest to battle pediatric cancer.

Every year, those champions, in the form of 15,000 Penn State student volunteers, fight their battle via year-long fundraising that culminates in THON weekend at Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center in State College, Pennsylvania. This weekend marks the forty-first annual THON dance marathon.

Sir Millard, a.k.a. Christopher Millard, penned his story called “The Four Diamonds” before he died of cancer at the age of 14 in 1972. He had no way of knowing the legacy he would leave behind.

The day he died at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, his parents, Charles and Irma Millard, started the Four Diamonds Fund to raise money to assist pediatric cancer patients and their families with expenses outside those insurance will cover while their children are undergoing treatment.

Photo of the floor of the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State during a THON weekend packed with dancers and supporters.

THON fills the Bryce Jordan Center at Penn State for 46 hours of dancing, music and emotional excitement one weekend each year.

THON weekend is a celebration of the efforts of the volunteers–joined by their fellow students, Four Diamonds Families, and their many supporters–who dedicate their time to raising money and increasing awareness for pediatric cancer.

It is the largest student-run philanthropy in the world, raising $89 million to date, more than $10 million last year alone. Participants hope to surpass $100 million with this year’s total, which exclusively benefits the Four Diamonds Fund at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. (more…)

February 14, 2013 at 12:12 pm Leave a comment

The magic of the Child Life Program

When you walk into a room filled with smiles, laughter, toys, games, and an over-all atmosphere of fun, it’s easy to forget you’re in a hospital.

That is exactly the goal of the Child Life Program at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital. Child Life offers patients support through its programming, including a fall visit from Olympic gold medalist Jamie Gray. Originally from nearby Lebanon, Pa., Gray was inspired to visit Hershey by the young patients she met at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Baton Rouge, La.

Much to the delight of the Hershey children and their families, Gray recently participated in their weekly BINGO game, spending time with families and answering questions about the Olympics. Sharing her gold medal in 50-meter rifle three position, she didn’t even mind when one little friend got chocolate from his hands on it.

Gray was touched by the children’s resiliency, especially after watching her mother, Karen Beyerle, battle and defeat breast cancer.

“I think it’s amazing to see how happy they are going through so much adversity,” she said. “I think they’re inspiring, honestly.”

Izaiah Robinson with Jamie Gray and the Nittany Lion

Izaiah Robinson with Jamie Gray and the Nittany Lion

It isn’t hard to see the difference Child Life makes with while watching 8 year-old Izaiah Robinson from Boalsburg, Pa., nearly running to the prize table, with a huge smile across his face. (more…)

February 13, 2013 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

PNC Foundation helps kids be kids at Children’s Hospital

Rendering of Learning Wall in new Children's HospitalPatients at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital will soon have even more opportunity to play and learn thanks to the continuous generosity of the PNC Foundation, which receives its principal funding from The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc.

The freestanding Children’s Hospital is the latest and boldest addition to the campus, and PNC wanted to be a significant partner in seeing it through to fruition. With a $1 million contribution to the Medical Center in 2005 toward the construction of the new children’s hospital building, the PNC Child and Family Resource Center was designated to provide a place for the Injury Prevention Program to educate children and families about child safety as well as distribute PNC Grow Up Great educational materials. Developed with Sesame Workshop, the educational kit and other materials helps prepare children, from birth to age five, to arrive at school ready to learn. (more…)

August 21, 2012 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

John E. Morgan—A man of humble but generous means

Harry B. Loder, 76, passed away on May 16, 2012. The story below was written just before his passing.

If philanthropist and self-made industry leader John E. Morgan were alive today, he wouldn’t enjoy reading this article.

Morgan, whose financial support is helping to build the Pediatric Intermediate Care Unit (PIMCU) in the new Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, was an intensely private and humble man, even for projects that most people feel should be publicly celebrated.

“I think he’d like us to say that he used his money wisely,” says Harry B. Loder, a longtime employee and a friend of Morgan who now serves on the board of the John E. Morgan Foundation. “He liked to see people get an education and he also wanted to see them well taken care of.”

Morgan’s business aspirations began simply enough—in the mid-1940s, he and his wife Anna opened a small, storefront sewing shop in Hometown, Pennsylvania, just outside of Tamaqua. At that time, layering in heavy, uncomfortable wool was the only clothing option for staying warm in colder temperatures. Morgan soon developed and patented the waffle stitch, a precise method for knitting that gave rise to mass production of thermal fabrics used for long underwear and blankets. He is often credited with the invention of thermal underwear.

This led to incredible growth for the J.E. Morgan Knitting Mills, which eventually had sales in excess of $45 million and leased office space at the Empire State Building. At the time, the company was the largest employer in Schuylkill County, with a workforce of more than 1,000, and manufacturing plants in Tower City, Williamstown, and Gilbertsville. In 1984, Morgan sold the company to a Scottish-based textile company, although he remained as the board chairman. (more…)

August 10, 2012 at 10:30 am Leave a comment

Making the Children’s Hospital a reality

Children's Hospital buildingAnticipation is growing for the opening of the new 252,000-square-foot Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, set for late this fall. While progress on the building’s exterior is visible for everyone to see, the transition plans are in full swing behind the scenes. The contractors are moving level by level through the interior of the building to finish walls and run cables and wiring, to lay flooring materials and install cabinetry, and to prepare each room to receive the equipment that has been designated for the space.

The project team, equipment planners, purchasing agents, move planners, internal unit managers, and various other teams along with Gil Pak, operations director for Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, are managing every detail of the move. “We are meeting regularly to finalize the process. We’re also preparing and educating the staff before the move so we’re fully functional once we’re open,” explains Pak. (more…)

August 6, 2012 at 10:30 am 2 comments

The Four Diamonds Fund celebrates forty years

Charles Millard with child at THON

Charles Millard (pictured) and his wife Irma founded The Four Diamonds Fund on the day their son Chris passed away in 1972.

It all started with a call to arms—conquer childhood cancer—that hasn’t changed for forty years.  When the Four Diamonds Fund first appeared in 1972, there was little chance for a cure and treatment choices were limited. Since its inception, however, Four Diamonds has provided more than 3,200 children and their families touched by cancer the means to fight back.

From Despair to Hope

The vision for the Four Diamonds Fund began during the darkest days of Charles and Irma Millard’s life. In 1970, the couple was visiting Children’s Hospital Boston with their beloved 12-year-old son, Chris, who was being treated for rhabdomyosarcoma of the nasopharynx. There, the Millards discovered the Jimmy Fund, a program that covered all out-of-pocket medical costs for children receiving therapy for cancer at the hospital. “That’s where we came up with the idea to start a fund that would benefit families in central Pennsylvania,” Charles Millard says. “In 1972, on the day Chris died at Penn State Hershey Medical Center, we initiated the Fund.”

For the couple, then living in Elizabethtown, their main goal was to relieve the financial burden that other young families may face during their battle with cancer, while providing support for the best medical care available. “In the first five years, it was slow moving, but we continued to do fundraisers,” Millard says.  “We felt really thankful that we had the opportunity to take this negative experience in our lives—the loss of our son—and turn it into something so positive.”

A Place of Healing and Caring

The mission of the Four Diamonds Fund is to conquer childhood cancer by assisting children treated at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital and their families by funding superior care, comprehensive support, and pediatric cancer research.

Over the years, the organization has expanded its ability to take care of these desperately ill children. Today, a world-class team of professionals provide comprehensive medical care—including pediatric oncologists, nurse specialists, social workers and child life specialists. Some 100 new patient families benefit from Four Diamonds each year. That support includes getting the cost of all uncovered medical bills paid.

“Drawing on these resources, we are able to provide a level of cancer care, second to none,” says A. Craig Hillemeier, M.D., chair, Department of Pediatrics, at the Children’s Hospital. “If you are treating a child with cancer, you are really treating the whole family, and because of the Four Diamonds Fund, we are able to give a much more complete response to the terrible reality that the child and family experience.”


July 30, 2012 at 4:00 pm 2 comments

Developing nursing leaders from within

Penn State Hershey has many people to thank for supporting the building of the new Children’s Hospital. From its very foundation to its breathtaking Learning Wall, gracious donors have helped to turn this vision into a reality. Contributor Francis (Fran) S. Soistman, Jr., co-founder and executive vice president of Jessamine Healthcare, Inc., along with his wife, Holly, were  looking to make an impact in a specific way—the development of nursing leaders.

“I’ve spent almost my entire career on the healthcare insurance side of the business and have a very strong appreciation for the role that nurses play in delivering quality health care,” explains Soistman. In the past, the Soistmans have set up endowments for Penn State to fund nursing scholarships. “We wanted to do something of significance to further support men and women thinking about going into nursing and bring more highly trained nurses into the field.” When they decided they were ready to make another contribution, the Children’s Hospital seemed a good fit.

Jeanne Arnold speaks to nursing students

Jeanne Arnold, local philanthropist and advocate for the Children’s Hospital and former senior vice-president of patient care services for Good Samaritan Hospital in Lebanon, speaks to one of the leadership classes.

In preparing for the transition to the new Children’s Hospital, the nursing leadership recognized a large staffing challenge. In fact, the Children’s Hospital would require a 100-percent increase in nurse managers and clinical nurse managers. To meet this need, Penn State Hershey saw the opportunity to “grow from within” by developing and implementing a program that would transition members of its existing pediatric and women’s health nursing teams into these leadership roles.


July 26, 2012 at 9:00 am Leave a comment

From Israel to Hershey, in search of hope – and a cancer cure

Eli and Miriam Safrai say the decision to temporarily relocate their family from Jerusalem to Hershey was easy. They knew the trans-global move could represent their best hope of connecting their son Muli (short for “Shmuel”) with cancer treatment that could save his life.

It all began in late 2009, shortly after their son Muli’s first birthday.

“He seemed tired, often complained of a pain in his stomach and was constipated,” Miriam says. Despite these symptoms, Muli’s doctor found no medical problem. When the symptoms persisted, his parents sought a second opinion – and shortly thereafter, Muli was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. A tumor had formed in Muli’s adrenal gland, not far from his kidney.

Apart from tumors of the brain and spinal cord, neuroblastoma is the most common tumor affecting children. Roughly half of all patients who are treated for it recover. But the other half relapse, and when the cancer returns, it’s usually very aggressive and brings a grim prognosis. In fact, relapse neuroblastoma has a five-year survival rate in the single digits.

Immediately after he was diagnosed, Muli entered a vigorous, year-long treatment regimen that included a stem cell transplant, chemotherapy, surgery, radiation and immunotherapy. Muli was declared to be in remission. But within weeks, Eli and Miriam received the news they feared most: the cancer was back, this time in Muli’s arm. After hearing about the various options, Eli and Miriam agreed to more chemotherapy and radiation. The treatment warded off the cancer, but caused a fungal infection that made Muli gravely ill.

After Muli cleared that hurdle, Eli and Miriam – knowing Muli’s cancer was almost definitely going to come back – scoured the Internet for clinical trials that would accept him. However, they found none for neuroblastoma patients in remission. Just as they thought all options had been exhausted, they received encouraging news on an online forum for parents of children with cancer. They learned of a trial taking place nearly 6,000 miles away at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital.

After reviewing Muli’s recent scans and other medical records, Ken Lucas, M.D., director of the Pediatric Stem Cell Transplant Program at Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital, accepted the toddler into the trial. “While by scans we know he was tumor-free, this child most definitely had tumor cells in him to some degree,” Lucas says. “That’s why we enrolled him in this study – because his chances of relapse are so high.”

The trial consists of four, one-month treatment cycles. Each begins with a chemotherapy drug that makes tumor proteins increase on the surface of the tumor cell. The patient is then given a vaccine that targets those proteins. The vaccine is created using the patient’s own white blood cells, which are isolated, modified, and transfused back to the patient.

The Safrais did not put life on hold while living in Hershey. On the contrary, Miriam received her doctorate in medicine from an Israeli university and traveled home to give birth to the couple’s third child, Lechem, during their months-long stay in south central Pennsylvania. Meantime, Eli continued to work toward his Ph.D. in physics. And their daughter, Liam, attended pre-K classes at the Jewish Community Center in Harrisburg.

Along with Muli’s treatments, the Safrais say their top priority was trying to maintain a semblance of family life.

“When Liam [came] home from school each day, we often [tried] to make family time together – by going someplace or seeing something,” Eli says. One such excursion led the family to New York City where they took in the view from the Statue of Liberty. They also enjoyed the Pennsylvania Farm Show, as well as a visit to an Amish farm in Lancaster County.

Muli and his family are now back home in Israel. Lucas and his team will continue to monitor Muli’s condition in conjunction with his caregivers back home. Muli will undergo scans every three to four months to ensure his cancer stays in remission.

Muli is the fourth patient to be enrolled in the cancer vaccine trial. Lucas hopes to enroll a total of fifteen, with an ultimate goal of discerning which patients the vaccine therapy was able to help.

Despite the long odds, his parents are optimistic that Muli will be one of those people.

“We really have a lot of hope,” Miriam says with a reassuring smile. “And for us, just hope is also something good.”

July 5, 2012 at 11:37 am Leave a comment

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