Opinion: Fighting for the kids

Jeffrey Hord

There are many opportunities in college to learn a variety of life lessons, including the importance of community service. As stated by the French-German theologian, philosopher and physician Albert Schweitzer, “The purpose of human life is to serve and to show compassion and the will to help others.” The young men and women organizing and participating in Kent State’s Flashathon have certainly learned this. The 5th annual Flashathon is a dance marathon taking place on Sat., April 8 in the Kent State Student Wellness and Recreation Center. The participants serve children and families in our region who are battling childhood cancer by raising funds and supporting adopted “miracle families.”

Childhood cancer is rare — affecting only about 15,000 individuals in the U.S. annually; once the disease is diagnosed, the lives of the effected child and his or her family change forever. As a parent, it is hard to imagine moving beyond the fear of losing your child, let alone doing so while being thrown into a strange world of hospitals, doctors, nurses, unfamiliar medical terms, invasive procedures and intense treatments with a frightening list of potential side effects.  

Along with confronting these fears, there is significant disruption to family life and additional financial stressors. Parents who may already be struggling financially may no longer be able to work due to the time needed to care for their child. The financial burden increases not only due to medical expenses but also the cost of transportation to the hospital, childcare for siblings and the usual household expenses such as rent and utilities.

Additionally, the social lives of the patient, parents and siblings are put on hold. Siblings may not see their parents for extended periods and could be restricted from participating in extracurricular activities. They may have mixed feelings that fluctuate back-and-forth from fearing their brother or sister may die to resenting them for getting so much attention.

Within the cancer program at Akron Children’s Hospital, approximately 90 children from northern Ohio and western Pennsylvania are diagnosed with cancer each year, and about 225 children receive treatment for cancer at any time. Fortunately, the medical outlook for these patients has never been brighter, as more than 80 percent of those diagnosed today will be long-term survivors. However, the journey to get to that positive outcome is difficult, and these infants, children, teens, and young adults along with their families need community support.

The professionals at Akron Children’s Hospital witness families fighting these battles and encountering stressors every day. The staff assists families as much as possible, but the degree to which we can help is dependent upon the generosity of individuals, businesses and organizations throughout the region.

I encourage all students to get involved with this year’s Flashathon and make it a campus-wide Kent State event.  As seen in other area of the country, a dance marathon like Flashathon has the potential to become ingrained in the culture of Kent State and reach goals far beyond what has been achieved thus far. By participating, you will have great fun and learn the value that service to others can have in your own life.

Jeffrey Hord is a guest columnist, the director of the Showers Family Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders and the associate chair of pediatrics for subspecialty practices at Akron Children’s Hospital, contact him at [email protected].