Gold and burgundy Mylar balloons knock against each other gently as patients congregate beneath a start/finish line hanging between ceiling tiles at one end of the hematology-oncology unit. Chatter and anticipation electrify the air.
“On your mark, get set, go!”
With those words from Peter Shaw, M.D., deputy director of Johns Hopkins All Children's Cancer & Blood Disorders Institute, the annual Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month unit walk is underway.
Some walk on their own, others are in wheelchairs pushed by family. Behind them, a sea of gold shirts fill in all available space. As upbeat tunes pump through a wireless speaker it is more of a moving party than anything else.
Tampa Bay Rowdies players and mascot Pete the Pelican and Tampa Bay Rays mascot Raymond are there too, handing out bracelets to the patients watching from their rooms, not feeling well enough to join in.
The celebratory laps turn into an impromptu dance party at the finish line.
Beneath the hoopla and the comedic relief provided by the team mascots, there is an undeniable message of strength in numbers and hope for a future without cancer.
As the vaccine comes to the frontline workers, a world of possibilities begins to open up.
For Gavin, the hospital isn’t all about challenges and adversity. It’s about giving joy to others.
The holidays she has altered to care for kids are too many to count, but as she retires, she leaves much for patients and colleagues to be thankful.
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