The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center became a winter wonderland on Saturday at the annual Mike Smyth Children’s Holiday Party. Nearly 500 patients and their families enjoyed a sunny afternoon complete with ornament making, face painting, indoor bowling, a video game truck, bounce houses, comic book superheroes and Disney characters, a mad scientist show, and visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus.
The Active 20-30 Club Sacramento #1 co-founded the event and continues to support it more than 10 years later. Club members gathered Friday night to wrap about 400 gifts for each child and their siblings and helped hand the presents out during the party. Club members also helped Cancer Center staff decorate, secure food donations and organized live entertainment.
For Teresa Oliveros and Rafael Medina, the annual party is a time for their family to celebrate their son’s cancer remission. Seven-year-old lymphoma survivor Leonardo Medina enjoyed carefree playtime with his siblings while his parents watched.
“It (the party) makes us feel like family,” said Oliveros. “It’s a really good distraction. We came back because they always have fun.”
The Sacramento Sheriff’s Department and the Children’s Miracle Network co-sponsor the event every year with the 20-30 Club. UC Davis Police officer Mikio McCulloch showed off the department’s three-wheeled “Slingshot” which resembles a Batmobile. Kids could also climb through large trucks driven to the Cancer Center officers from the Sheriff’s Department and firefighters from the Sacramento Metro Fire Department.
Jenny Belke, a child life specialist at the Cancer Center, helped coordinate the event. She had the opportunity to mingle with patients and parents who she ordinarily sees during their treatments, which can be scary and stressful.
“I love this event is because it gives kids a day when they can have fun and focus on activities rather than getting ‘poked’,” said Belke.
Robin Seufort held back tears as she described what the gathering means to her family. She recently adopted her 3-year-old daughter, Rebecca, who was treated at the UC Davis Children’s Hospital and received medication at the Pediatric Infusion Center for her absent pulmonary valve syndrome.
“Our daughter Rebecca has spent most of her life in the PICU. We’re just so thankful for the staff here,” said Seufort. “It was really special to receive the invitation in the mail.”
UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center is the only National Cancer Institute-designated center serving the Central Valley and inland Northern California, a region of more than 6 million people. Its specialists provide compassionate, comprehensive care for more than 10,000 adults and children every year, and access to more than 150 clinical trials at any given time. Its innovative research program engages more than 280 scientists at UC Davis, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and Jackson Laboratory (JAX West), whose scientific partnerships advance discovery of new tools to diagnose and treat cancer. Through the Cancer Care Network, UC Davis collaborates with a number of hospitals and clinical centers throughout the Central Valley and Northern California regions to offer the latest cancer care. Its community-based outreach and education programs address disparities in cancer outcomes across diverse populations. For more information, visit cancer.ucdavis.edu.