Smiles and sunshine were the order of the day as nearly 250 children, parents and staff members from the Johns Hopkins All Children's Cancer and Blood Disorders Institute gathered to celebrate cancer survivorship during a safari day at Busch Gardens on Saturday, June 6. The 45 survivors in attendance came from all over Florida and ranged in age from young children to teenagers.
The day began at the Gwazi Pavilion with a warm welcome from All Children's Hospital and Busch Gardens, including a special appearance from Sesame Street characters Elmo and Abby.
Education is an important part of ensuring healthy lives for cancer survivors and the day featured an educational session presented by Claudia Lukas PA-C, director of the CanSurvive Clinic, which is held monthly at All Children's Outpatient Care, Tampa. She provided families with an overview of survivorship concerns, including the importance of preventative activities such as wearing sunscreen and staying current with follow-up care.
To highlight the message, each survivor received a safari hat and sunscreen to keep them protected during the sunny day and a jump drive preloaded with information to help each child and their family with "living the new normal."
Families spent the remainder of the day exploring the theme park and enjoying the attractions while connecting with ACH staff.
"This event provides a great opportunity for us to network with patients," said Deborah Del Favero R.N., clinical nursing director of hematology-oncology at All Children's. "We get to talk with the families and make sure each child is receiving the proper follow-up care."
The day also provided survivors time to reconnect with friends they made during their stay at All Children's. Connie Colton, mother of 15-year-old clear cell sarcoma survivor Tony, is grateful for the opportunity the safari day provided.
"One of the best things was seeing children from the past that are doing so well," said Colton. "Tony got to spend time with friends and it was a wonderful day."
The cancer survivorship safari was made possible by an American Cancer Society's Childhood Cancer Survivorship Grant and a generous donation of admission and meal tickets from Busch Gardens.