Thanksgiving festival brings joy for kids with cancer

Paper bag turkeys

More than 200 young cancer fighters, survivors and families attended a Thanksgiving celebration Nov. 18 hosted by the pediatric oncology team of the Children’s Hospital University of Illinois and 40 volunteers from UI Health, the UIC College of Medicine and the UIC College of Dentistry.

“Today is really about a whole community,” said Dr. Mary Lou Schmidt, professor of pediatrics and chief of pediatric hematology and oncology.

The festival included a traditional Thanksgiving lunch of turkey and mashed potatoes with gravy, games, gifts, crafts and an interactive performance by the Joffrey Ballet’s Exelon Strobel Dance group. Fifteen community and cancer support groups set up activity tables: Bear Necessities helped kids make ornaments, Snow City Arts brought instruments for kids to play, the Girl Scouts offered jewelry making, and Holiday Heroes hosted a ring toss game with toy prizes.

St. Baldrick’s presented UIC with a $150,000 check in support of the UI Health/Rush/Stroger Children’s Oncology Group, which was formed in 2008 to ensure that any child or young adult being treated for cancer at any of the three institutions could be connected to clinical trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute.

“When we go back to the clinic on Monday and fight against cancer, we will remember the joy we had today,” Schmidt said.

This is the 15th year the hospital has put on the event.