NEWARK –Children with cancer, sickle cell disease and other blood disorders are not just their diagnoses; they are, first and foremost, kids. To recognize and celebrate that fact, The Valerie Fund Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Hospital of New Jersey has, for twenty years, thrown a lively and kid-friendly holiday party that also includes siblings and family members.
This year more than 400 children and adults attended at the free event which was held on Dec. 13 at the Sheraton at the Newark Airport.
The party is funded by a donation from The Tom Coughlin Jay Fund Foundation, which is founded by Tom Coughlin, the head coach for the New York Giants. The Jay Fund’s mission is to financially and emotionally assist families with children who are undergoing cancer treatment. With last year’s $50,000 grant from the Jay Fund, The Valerie Fund Children’s Center was able to assist 20 families.
The party is the perfect opportunity for children and families to laugh and dance, and for staff members to participate in a night that has nothing to do with medical treatments and therapies and everything to do with joy and celebration.
“The kids have a great time and dance all night and enjoy themselves immensely,” says Jillian Hinko, CCLS, Child Life Specialist at the Valerie Fund Children’s Center. “It is also a good chance for staff members to see their young patients outside of a hospital setting and to watch them enjoying themselves.”
The party includes a sit down dinner, a DJ, face painting, clowns, an airbrush room where children can have shirts painted, gift bags for patients and siblings, as well as a visit from Santa. Food is tailored to children’s tastes, with chicken fingers and fries on the menu, as well as other choices.
Valerie Fund staff members, as well as staff outside of the Valerie Fund who work closely with the young patients when they are on other units, put together all of the gift bags, which include items such as toys and clothing, and are greatly appreciated by the families.
“And at the end of the night, the kids ran to the ice cream sundae bar, which ended the evening with lots of smiles,” adds Hinko.
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