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Proton Alums’ Generosity Means Family Fun for Our Youngest Patients
A group of families meet up for dinner and playtime on a Thursday. As the children play, the parents chat with each other about their day and what’s going on in their lives. After a few hours, it’s time to head home for the evening. As the parents gather their children, fond hugs and well wishes are exchanged with the promise to see each other soon.
This seemingly ordinary scenario happens every other Thursday at the UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Hosted by the pediatric social services team, Family Fun Night, as the gathering is called, brings a sense of the ordinary back into the lives of families with a child who has a life-threatening tumor. Often it brings joy with visits from special guests from the Jacksonville community such as professional sports team members, zookeepers and their animals, or magicians and their tricks.
Family Fun Night is completely free for patients and their families thanks to the generosity of individuals who help fund the meals and activities.
For Marjorie and Barry Berg, supporting the children and families is a way to help others and to give back.
After a prostate cancer diagnosis in the spring of 2010, Barry consulted with different physicians and was not happy with the treatment options. He and Marjorie researched on the internet, found proton therapy and traveled to Jacksonville from their home in Palm Beach Gardens for a tour. They decided proton therapy was the best treatment choice, and he was treated that summer. “My results were great. I had no side effects, no issues,” said Barry.
“While I was being treated, at the same time they were in the early stages of treating children,” he said. “We got to see some of the families and children who were being treated. Seeing these little people with issues. That seemed much more difficult than what I had, even though we were going through the same treatment.”
Since then, the Bergs have made a point to provide an annual gift to the Institute. They recently stepped forward to fund the Family Fun Nights being hosted in June, to help the pediatric patients and families.
Said Barry, “A lot of the people who are treated for prostate cancer are older and retired. Fortunately I was able to go back to work following treatment and am still working. I feel very fortunate to be able to do that and fortunate to be able to share and help.”
For Betty and Martin Edwards, a desire to help the children and to make people feel welcome at the Institute and in their hometown of Jacksonville motivated them to support the pediatric program. Not only have they helped fund the pediatric recovery room renovation, they’ve also helped fund a Family Fun Night happening this month.
Martin was diagnosed with prostate cancer nine years ago. While he had several treatment options, he credits Betty with finding out about proton therapy. “She was talking to a neighbor who is a doctor at UF Health Jacksonville. He mentioned proton therapy and we looked into it. I became convinced that it would be a good choice for me,” Martin said.
“I have to say that everybody at the Institute was as friendly and hospitable as could be. In most medical settings it’s formal and sterile. This was just the opposite. Everyone was friendly and welcoming and made you feel at home. A relaxed atmosphere,” said Martin. As his treatment progressed Martin said he would go early just to sit and visit with people. He would share information with newcomers about what to expect during treatment and places to go and things to do around town. He wanted to make them feel welcome and became what he called a “mini ambassador” for the Institute.
But what really prompted the Edwards to make a philanthropic gift was Martin’s experience seeing the children who were on treatment. He vividly recalled watching a sedated child holding a teddy bear being wheeled down the hall on a gurney toward the treatment room. “I thought, ‘How unfair is this for this young child to have to go through this? It’s one thing for an older guy like me, but for a young child… .’ Later, I said to my wife, ‘If we ever get a chance to help out with that, we have to do it.’”
Betty said, “As a mother and counselor of children and families I firmly believe that anything that reduces their anxiety helps them feel better. That goes for the child AND the parents. When we heard about Family Fun Night we wanted to support it because it helps families take their minds off being sick, and needing treatment in a strange environment. We want to help families relax and focus on play and sharing experiences with other families facing similar situations.”
If you would like to support the pediatric program or Family Fun Night, contact Director of Development Lindsay Carter-Tidwell at firstname.lastname@example.org or (904) 588-1519.
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The Precision Newsletter is an electronic-only publication that is distributed by email. Each issue is sent monthly to patients, alumni patients and friends of the University of Florida Health Proton Therapy Institute. As the official newsletter of the Institute, the content is compiled and prepared by our communications representative and approved by the editor Stuart Klein, executive director of UF Health Proton Therapy Institute. Special bulletin newsletters may occasionally be prepared when timely topics and new developments in proton therapy occur. If you would like to send a Letter to the Editor, please click here.
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