The smiles started at check-in and continued to the carnival rides, arts and crafts tents, and petting zoo and rock-climbing wall as young cancer patients and survivors gathered at the 23rd annual Jimmy Fund Clinic Summer Festival July 19.
“This is our favorite day of the summer” was a refrain heard time and again from patients, parents, and siblings at the festival, which drew approximately 2,500 attendees to the Noble and Greenough School in Dedham. The event gives active patients a respite from the hospital and offers survivors the opportunity to reconnect with old caregivers and friends.
“We wouldn’t miss this for anything,” said Cindi Webster, whose daughter Micala is a brain tumor survivor. “It’s a day when you can feel like yourself.”
Taking photos with superheroes is a favorite festival pastime of Micala’s, and of 10-year-old Aurora Primo– who eagerly showed off her Wonder Woman and Black Widow temporary tattoos. “There is no judgment or name-calling here,” said her mother, Nadine. “After all her hard work in treatment, this is a celebration.”
The event, which this year also featured barbeque lunch, pony rides, front-seat cruises in police cars, and much-welcomed swimming on a 90-degree afternoon, has been overseen since its inception by volunteers working under Lisa Scherber, director of Patient and Family Programs at Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. Sponsors included TJS, One Mission, Inc., Christopher’s Mark Cancer Foundation, the Gilmore Family, the Knez Family Charitable Foundation, and the GBL Foundation, Inc. Dunkin’ Donuts supplied goodies and services.
Bradley Priem turned 3 when he was in treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, and said he still comes every year because “it’s very uplifting to see kids who are like I was – happy to just have some fun.” Priem is now 17 and college-bound, and while he no longer has much interest in the rides, he volunteers at the festival.
So does Giuliana Malvarosa, a 22-year-old lymphoma survivor. She has been coming with her parents and sister since she was in active treatment at age 8, and for many years the entire family has worked the registration table. “When I came as a patient this was a day where I could be surrounded by people like me,” she said. “Now it’s a chance to look at it from the other side. It feels so comforting to be here.”
A few feet away, Malvarosa’s mother, Marianne, watched as two “clinic moms” who last saw each other 20 years before shared an embrace. “This is a miracle day,” she says. “We have a beautiful daughter because of Dana-Farber, and this is our opportunity to give back.”
Department of Communications, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute