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Center Supports Childhood Cancer Organizations

Center Supports Childhood Cancer Organizations

The SCCA Proton Therapy Center is proud to support childhood cancer organizations in furthering their mission to assist families faced with childhood cancer or other conditions. Read more about the work of three of these organizations below.

Ronald McDonald House Seattle

Ronald McDonald House Charities is a non-profit organization that provides free or low-cost housing to families affected by childhood cancer and other conditions while the children are in treatment.

The first Ronald McDonald House was dreamed up by Philadelphia Eagles football player Fred Hill in 1974, after his 3-year-old daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. His family and those of other sick children camped out many nights at the hospital while their children were in treatment. There had to be a better way, and he, as well as Eagles teammates, managers, and doctors teamed up with McDonald’s to make it happen. Today there are hundreds of Ronald McDonald Houses all over the world.

The first Ronald McDonald House in Seattle opened in 1983 and now has three buildings and another one under construction. The organization does not charge fees, but a contribution of $30/night is greatly appreciated from families that can afford it. The location in northeast Seattle serves more than 70 people a night, from Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska, but also from further away, even internationally. Children and families who stay at Ronald McDonald House Seattle must be in treatment at Seattle Children’s Hospital.

Around 50% of the children whose families stay with the organization are childhood cancer patients. Another 50% are 5 years old or younger. There is usually a wait list for rooms, though the new building’s 25 rooms will help significantly.

“In addition to housing, the Ronald McDonald House offers free meals, as well as activities. Unfortunately, the pandemic has curtailed many support programs, but in healthier times we hosted movie nights, activity nights and therapy dogs,” says Activities Coordinator volunteer Eleanor Garrison

To offset costs, Ronald McDonald House has two fundraisers a year – a gala and a hockey tournament. Click here for more information.

“It’s a privilege to walk alongside these families,” says Garrison. “This is our way to remind them that they are not in it alone in this and make the burden more bearable.”

Soulumination 

McKenzie Johnson is the executive director of Soulumination, which celebrates the lives of children and parents facing life-threatening conditions by providing free professional photographs. The organization, which became a nonprofit in 2005, was started by her mother, Lynette Huffman Johnson.

“My mother still takes some of those photos,” says Johnson. “She herself is being treated for cancer at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance.”

Soulumination started when Huffman Johnson realized how much having photos helped her friends and family who were grieving for lost babies. As a professional photographer, she had taken photos when her sister-in-law’s child died shortly after birth. She decided to let others know she would memorialize their loved ones, too.

Social workers, doctors, nurses, as well as families and friends, can refer Soulumination to grieving families. Soulumination works with Seattle Children’s Hospital, UW Medicine and Tacoma General Hospital, and plans to expand to hospitals in Spokane, Bellingham and the TriCities.

The organization offers several programs: one for any family with a child 18 years old or younger who has a life-threating condition, and another one for families with children 18 years old or younger whose parent has a life-threating condition. The third service is for bereaved families. 

Soulumination has about 50 professional photographer volunteers – including our own proton therapy graduate Caroline Catlin. The organization books up to 400 sessions in a typical year, but about half that number during the pandemic.

“We want to help families through the grieving process or help them remember a difficult time in a child or parent’s life” says Johnson. “Our photos as well as some gifts come in a branded box so that families know what’s in and can open it whenever they are ready.”

Run of Hope and Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund

Cancer is the deadliest childhood disease, and brain tumors are the deadliest childhood cancers. Less than 4% of research funds go to pediatric brain cancers, which prompted Erin Cordry to launch the Pediatric Brain Tumor Research Fund, a non-profit guild at Seattle Children’s.

In 2004, Cordry’s son Max was diagnosed at age at 8 with a brain tumor. After learning about the need for research funding at Seattle Children’s, Cordry decided to take matters into her own hands.

“I thought, ‘If we want to save lives, we have to create awareness, have an event and raise money,’” she says. For the first few years, the new fund raised money through small fundraisers, but in 2009, Seattle’s Four Seasons Hotel approached Hanson with the idea to partner on a fun run, and the Run of Hope was born.

“One of the most rewarding things,” Cordry says about the first Run of Hope in October 2009, “was being blown away by the impact for families of kids with brain tumors.” The families felt so supported, she says. “This event showed just how much people cared, and created this wonderful community.”

Since 2009, Run of Hope has raised approximately $7 million. Run of Hope’s funds have helped several studies become protocols – with impacts not just at Seattle Children’s but around the country. “As long as there are children to save from brain cancers, we will continue to do this event,” says Cordry.

Last year during COVID, Run of Hope decided to have a virtual event, with people participating not just in Seattle but in other cities in Washington, the United States and internationally. Though many people missed having the event in person last year and this year, a new hybrid approach might open the door to a much larger event.

If you are interested in supporting this organization and event join Cordry, her son Max, now 26, and Mike Hershler, co-founder from the Four Seasons Hotel virtually on Sept. 26 at 9 am. Click here for more information: https://bit.ly/37iyEyo