Early Thanksgiving brings hugs and hope


More than 100 pediatric cancer patients and their families got together with hospital staff to celebrate an early Thanksgiving Saturday for the Children’s Hospital University of Illinois.

At the 13th annual event, there were crafts — turkey hats! — donut decorating, face painting, temporary tattoos and portraits by Flashes of Hope.

Thanksgiving party - Helga Diaz

“It’s nice to know that I can be here a year later,” says UIC student Helga Diaz, center, diagnosed last year with leukemia. Photo: Roberta Dupuis-Devlin/UIC Photo Services

“It is one of my favorite times of the year, because it’s a time when we can just all be together in casual clothes and celebrate, and enjoy a great meal, and lots of hugs, some gifts, some fun games and gratitude for things going well,” said Mary Lou Schmidt, chief of pediatric hematology/oncology and associate professor of pediatrics.

St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nonprofit organization that raises money for childhood cancer research, presented a $200,000 check to support Children’s Oncology Group pediatric cancer clinical trials at UI Health, Rush and Stroger hospitals. Other cancer support organizations, such as Children’s Oncology Services, Make-A-Wish, Gilda’s Club, Starlight Children’s Foundation, Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation, CureSearch for Children’s Cancer, Go4the Goal and the Girls Scouts offered information for parents and activities for kids.

Helga Diaz, 18, a UIC student majoring in kinesiology, came to the party with her mom, two sisters and brother.

“I have leukemia, I was diagnosed exactly a year ago from today,” she said. “It’s nice to know that I can be here a year later, spending time with my doctors outside of the clinic. It’s fun to see them here, and it’s fun to see some of my little friends as well.”


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