The way you look at cold, slushy ICEEs may be about to change. It did for two Springfield classmates who found out the frozen drinks are more than just a sweet treat if you’re a young cancer patient.
Nikki Shah, 15, and Kameron Haake, 17, cofounded a nonprofit named Every Teen Helps Inspire Change, or ETHIC. “Our mission is to give teenagers the opportunity to get involved in the community,” said Shah. “In our first project, we worked with a local artist and pediatric cancer patients to create paintings and raise money for pediatric care.”
During that project, the teens heard stories from patients about the hardships of chemotherapy. “One side effect children have is developing sores in their mouths, which makes it hard to swallow and difficult to eat,” added Shah. “Cool treats can help alleviate the pain and make their day better. We wanted an ICEE machine for Mercy Kids so they could look forward to something during their treatments.”
Shah and Haake turned to Angel 34, a national nonprofit founded in 2003 by 13-year-old Nicole Sheriff. Sheriff, a cancer patient herself, realized ICEEs relieved much of her pain, helped her stay hydrated and was the only thing she and other children seemed to be able to keep down. Since Sheriff’s death in 2004, more than a dozen machines have been installed across the country through the Children’s’ Hospital ICEE Program.
“Kids can’t control cancer, but we can help it,” said Haake. “We explained the need to Angel 34 and we were lucky enough to get a grant. But we had to raise money for the supplies like cups and lids.” Their minds still on cold treats, Shah and Haake made snow cones and sold them to elementary students to raise funds for ICEE supplies.
“The best part about the fundraiser was kids helping kids,” explained Shah. “Not only did this promote awareness, but it gave them a chance to give back.” And it won’t stop there once the ICEE machine is up and running. “We’re going to develop a coin system. Sometimes patients’ immune systems can be low, and there are only certain days or periods during their treatments that they can be allowed these treats. Caretakers can give them coins so on good days, as a reward for keeping a good spirit, they can trade them in for the treats.”
“The heartfelt generosity of these young students is an inspiration to all of us to help others,” said Jean Gruetzemacher, vice president of Mercy Health Foundation Springfield. “They are practicing the sentiment of ‘paying it forward.’ I commend them and hope they will continue to work with Mercy in future endeavors.”
Mercy will celebrate the new ICEE machine on “Day of the Child,” a time to affirm its ongoing commitment to excellence in children’s care. A one-hour reception will be held on Thursday, May 1, at 4 p.m. inside the Mercy Kids lobby at 1235 E. Cherokee Street. There will be a brief presentation followed by a blessing and remarks by Nikki Shah. Media is encouraged to arrive around 3:45 p.m. Parking is available outside the children’s hospital wing, or the main hospital off Cherokee Street.
Mercy is also marking this year’s “Day of the Child” with a Mercy Kids Facebook contest at http://www.facebook.com/MercyKidsPage. From April 17-30, parents are encouraged to upload photos of their children doing what they love. On May 1, four children and their families will be randomly selected to win big prizes. Learn more at http://bit.ly/MercyKidsContest.
In addition, children will be the focus at the May 1 Springfield Cardinals game at Hammons Field. Thirty Mercy Kids patients and their families will take part in a parade on the field before the game. One lucky child and his or her family will throw out the first pitch.
Mercy has been committed to taking care of kids since 1827. Mercy’s foundress, Catherine McAuley, began her healing ministry by serving the sick and poor children and women in Dublin, Ireland. She would no doubt be pleased to see how highly-specialized Mercy has become in caring for children.
Photos from Day of the Child 2014 will be posted at http://bit.ly/DayofChild14.