By BeckyLynn Schroeder
Cancer Free. That is the hope of many people that walk through our doors every day. Thanks to the support of many, the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute continues to advance cancer treatment and research that changes lives for the better.
November 15 is recognized as National Philanthropy Day® and we’d like to celebrate by thanking the many cancer survivors, family, friends and others who support our mission to offer cancer patients the best chance of cure with the least chance of side effects.
Every philanthropic act – big or small – has an enormous impact on the program and spirit at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Some of our young alumni have been busy “paying it forward,” giving to others in response to kindness shown to them, to spread the hope of a cancer-free future:
Rebecca Duff came to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute from Scotland. She was diagnosed with an ependymoma brain tumor at 20 years old. Prior to her diagnosis, Rebecca and some friends formed a group and began organizing fundraising activities for a friend receiving cancer treatments. When Rebecca found out about her brain tumor, the group was keen to continue the fundraising efforts to give back.
“I wanted to do something to give back to the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute because it was a fantastic place that made me feel safe and welcome while undergoing treatment,” Rebecca recalls.
Exploring her adventurous side, Rebecca and her friends had been raising money through various activities, including skydiving, to give back. They also created and sold wrist bands and held a coffee event. Earlier this year, Rebecca handed over a big check for £650 (or approximately $805 US dollars) representing the money she had raised to help others like her receive cancer treatment.
Rebecca and her group of friends are continuing their passion to help people who are going through similar experiences and will continue to hold fundraising events, including a masquerade ball and ladies’ night event.
Jake Teitelbaum was diagnosed with refractory Hodgkin’s lymphoma at 21. He battled through rounds of chemotherapy and a stem cell transplant then, shortly after his 22nd birthday, Jake underwent proton therapy. Throughout treatment, Jake met other people dealing with cancer that did not have as many resources as he did. While a chronic illness takes a toll on a person’s body, Jake believes it shouldn’t also have a debilitating impact economically. He came up with an idea – a sock business called Resilience – that will help fund cancer treatment expenses for people in need. A portion of the proceeds goes directly to a specific financially-strapped patient Jake has partnered with. Resilience was officially launched in September of this year and has already raised more than $800 for Resilience’s first recipient, a 14-year-old boy who has non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Jake says that he is excited to launch another custom sock design and will announce the second recipient this month. As Resilience grows, Jake also plans to branch out and help people with other illnesses in addition to cancer.
As Jake says, “The Resilience project is about fighting to become stronger. Stronger in body. Stronger in mind. Stronger in spirit. It’s about embracing terrible circumstances to learn and grow as a person. It’s about sending support, love, and of course, awesome socks, to someone who needs it.”
Nia Taylor-Jones, a 13-year-old from Wales in the United Kingdom, stopped by for a visit the week before Halloween to deliver sacks brimming with candy. She and her family were vacationing in Orlando and on their last day made a special trip to Jacksonville to deliver the treats along with a plaque of appreciation. She remembered the fun Halloween activities for children while she was on treatment for an orbital tumor in 2012. Now, four years later, she wanted to give something back and show her appreciation for all the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute has meant to her.
Nia, her grandmother Lynette Goddard, and her uncle James Taylor-Goddard presented a plaque to Daniel Indelicato, MD, associate professor of radiation oncology at UF Health Proton Therapy Institute and director of the pediatric program, Amy Sapp, RN, director of pediatric nursing, and Kimberly Ely, child life specialist. The plaque reads: “Nia Taylor-Jones & her family would like to dedicate this with love & affection to our friends at the Jacksonville Proton Therapy Institute for making a difficult time so easy to deal with.”
To learn more about how to support the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute, please visit: www.floridaproton.org/news/give-support.