As a picturesque snowfall gently fell outside, many of the Mahoning Valley’s bravest children and their families celebrated the holidays inside.
It was an evening to just be a child. To temporarily let go of the painful and stressful times … and instead just have some fun.
Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley’s annual Hematology-Oncology holiday party drew more than 100 current and former patients and their families. It was highlighted by reunions with doctors and staff, a visit from Santa Claus and dancing with princesses.
“Even though I’m a little older I still like to see Santa come in,” said London Hairston, 19, of Liberty.
Hairston was diagnosed with leukemia in 2010 and successfully completed treatment in 2012.
Today, she’s studying criminal justice at Kent State University’s Trumbull Campus. She also participates in the teen cancer support group mentoring younger cancer patients.
“Just to hear somebody else went through what you’re going through can be very helpful,” she said.
Doctors and staff look forward to reconnecting with patient families
Shari Harmon, clinical coordinator, Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Disorders, and her team planned the event. This year she brought Dr. Jeffrey Hord, director of Hematology-Oncology; Vish Bhatt, operations manager for the Showers Family Center; Sharon Hrina, vice president, Akron Children’s Hospital Mahoning Valley; and Dr. Daniel Pettee, director of Adolescent and Young Adult Cancer Program, among other Hematology-Oncology doctors, nurses and staff who’ve gotten to know the patients and their families.
“It’s an event our families always look forward to, and the doctors and staff do, as well,” Harmon said. “It’s a great night out to have some fun and enjoy the holidays. I particularly enjoy watching the kids sing, dance and interact with Santa and all the staff.”
Gerry Petras, of Campbell, comes almost every year. Petras was diagnosed with ALL leukemia at age 4, and went through more than 3 years of chemotherapy.
“Gerry loves dancing, going to parties and doing things. And, he still likes Santa!” said his mother, Pam Petras.