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Center Starts Hope for Henry Program

Center Starts Hope for Henry Program

SCCA’s Proton Therapy Center is excited to offer our childhood cancer patients a new procedure-based incentive program called Hope for Henry, which empowers children with serious illnesses to participate actively in their own care. (Photo: Proton therapy patient, Jaxon, chooses his end-of-week gifts)

The program was founded by the parents of Henry Goldberg, who was full of positive energy until his disease eventually took his life. Hope for Henry partners with hospitals to improve patients’ coping skills and to help them adhere to their medical protocols.

Each child receives a pathway gameboard and stickers that are specific to their procedure, like proton therapy. SCCA’s child life specialist, Erin Behen, walks them through each step of treatment to help them understand what to expect. Children get a specific sticker for each step they will go through, such as getting into a gown, lying still on the table and so on. Once they have completed the steps, they can put an “I did it!” sticker on each one.

“This program has opened up the door for some of our children who aren’t very verbal or are shy,” says Behen. “They engage, participate and learn about what they will be experiencing. They really light up about it.”

For each treatment session, the patients also receive “Hope for Henry Bucks” and a wallet to keep them in. About once a week, the children get to go shopping from a large variety of toys, books and other fun items using their toy money.

At the very end of proton therapy, each patient gets an “I’m a Hero” certificate.

At the Center, we are always on the lookout for ways to reduce anxiety around procedures and to build expectations. Behen came across Hope for Henry, which operates mainly on the East Coast, and reached out. They were excited to partner with us and have been willing to tailor their program to help make it work perfectly for proton therapy. They also added Behen to their team of innovators to help develop additional programming, including a simulation day for protons.

The Center officially launched the program in February, and so far, parents have been very impressed. It’s also helped children who have had an especially hard time coping with treatment.

“When one young patient came to spend his ‘bucks,’ he actually talked to me,” says Behen. “It was the first time he had used his voice with a staff member in seven weeks. I feel this program has amazing potential.”

The program is optional, but we are offering it to every childhood cancer patient between the ages of 3 and 12. If your child falls outside this range, but would still like to participate, we are happy to include them. Please reach out to Erin Behen at erin.behen@seattlechildrens.org or childlife@seattleprotons.org.