What an incredible time for our little guy, Adrian! Last week, Adrian got to ring the bell in celebration of the end of his chemotherapy treatment. His special friends Will and Craig, members of Pitt's soccer team, were happy to be able to be a part of this special and emotional day for Adrian.
Adrian, Will, and Craig spent many hours together during Adrian's treatments talking about Pokemon, playing video games, and just generally having an all-around good time, and we know they are looking forward to many more adventures now that treatment is done! Congratulations Adrian!!
It is with lots of excitement that we wish one of our own, Dana, the best of luck in her next adventure on this #FriendshipFriday! Dana joined our CCChampions family just over three years ago, and has been one of the kindest, warmest, most passionate people we've ever met.
Dana began as a volunteer with us in college, becoming best friends with Anya during her cancer journey. The two of them shared so many laughs and fun times together, and the friendship blossomed into a friendship that we've modeled so many after in the years since.
Two years later, Dana joined our team as Administrative Assistant & Volunteer Coordinator, helping strengthen the volunteer program so more kids and volunteers could have friendships like hers with Anya.
Dana worked for six years in college and grad school studying physical training, health, and wellness, and we couldn't be more happy for her as she starts to fly in that field!
Three cheers for Dana!
(P.S. As you may have guessed, there's a job opening at CCChampions! www.CCChampions.com/assistant)
Last week, Adrian met his new friends for the first time - Pitt Men's Soccer players, Will & Craig! The boys enjoyed an evening full of video games, talking, and most importantly, trading Pokemon cards. Adrian LOVES Pokemon, and it just so happens that Will and Craig were both big Pokemon fans when they were kids as well! They even brought Adrian a binder of all their old cards. Needless to say, Adrian was thrilled.
After their initial meeting, the boys were already planning another visit soon. Adrian, his brother Elias, Will and Craig spent the evening talking Pokemon cards and playing a video game called Minecraft. All of the boys are looking forward to getting together again.
If you love Pokemon as much as these boys do, comment and tell us your favorite!
Syd is incredibly shy and quiet, so it takes her a while to warm up to new friends! But that didn’t scare our Little Champs Role Model, Vic -- she was up to the challenge!
The first day we were hoping to connect Syd and Vic, Syd’s mom said to us, “You can bring Vic, but I can’t guarantee that Syd will talk to her.” Lucky for us, Syd was in a great mood that day -- she was social and friendly, and she took to Vic immediately! We couldn’t believe how quickly their friendship formed!
Ever since that first meeting, Vic and Syd have spent lots of time together doing puzzles, playing in the playroom, and reading. As Syd got older, Vic started helping her with homework, too! The best part, however, was how excited Syd got every time she knew Vic was coming to visit! She isn’t quite as shy anymore, and always would ask her parents when Vic would be there!
By: Copley Fry, Friendship Assistant
Before Easter, I had to the opportunity to meet Aiden and his mom while they were in for a short stay at CHP. Leading up to my visit, I had heard many wonderful things about Aiden from Jen, Coy, and Sidney. Needless to say, I was very excited to get to go play with him!
Before we got to the hospital Jen told me all about Aiden, his love for WWE, and what a little ball of energy he is. We weren't in the room for more than a minute and it was evident that this little boy LOVES WWE as much as I was told. How did I know this? He began to use the Easter Bunny crafts we brought for him as WWE action figures, body slams and all.
Seeing Aiden laugh as I pretended my bunny had been kicked off the bed and on to floor definitely brought a smile to my face. "Boys will be boys" is definitely the expression that comes to my mind when I think of Aiden!
Once our bunnies were done taking a beating (literally, some of the bunnies were down to no ears!) Jen pulled "Where's Waldo?" out of her backpack-- one of Aiden's favorites.
Aiden flipped through "Where's Waldo?" and found Waldo before I did on almost every page. Which left me speechless because I had just gotten schooled by a six year old!
After we found Waldo, two times through to be exact, we played a couple rounds of matching. I was again blown away when I asked him how many matches he had found and he counted them for me with ease, all the way to eight.
I'm always so amazed when I get to meet the boys and girls of CCChampions and Aiden is no exception. His mom told us about how well he is doing school and that he is becoming quite the ladies man among the girls in kindergarten (not to my surprise, of course).
It's moments like these that make me realize how lucky I am to be involved with CCChampions. It's so fulfilling to know that an hour of "Where's Waldo?" and WWE, Easter Bunny addition, put a smile on Aiden's face and made him giggle the entire time.
But what's even more amazing is that a six-year-old can leave me smiling ear to ear just by being himself.
By: Copley Fry, Friendship Assistant
The first time I met Angelika she was waking up from a lumbar puncture. She was a little disoriented from the anesthesia, asking her mom the same five questions on a loop. There wasn’t a moment where she was actually quiet. I could clearly see that this little girl had a huge personality-- despite still being under the effects of anesthesia.
As she came to, my co-volunteer Courtney and I got around to asking her some questions, getting to know her better. We learned that Angelika LOVES the Food Network (it is always on when we visit her), her favorite animals are unicorns (yes- even though they’re fictional they still count), and you better be prepared for her to crush you in a game of Candy Land!!
Just seeing how excited Angelika becomes when we ask her these simple questions truly makes me smile. I’m so thankful that CCChampions has given me the opportunity to make such a difference in someone’s life, allowing me to help Angelika be a kid again.
Over the next few months while Angelika is continuing her treatments, I hope to continue to get to know her better. As I said before, Angelika has such a big personality, especially for a nine-year-old, and I can’t wait to watch it unfold further. I anticipate many more games of Headbanz and Candy Land, but I also hope that we are able to spend time outside of the hospital too. Since she is such a fan of the Food Network, the idea of watching her cook or even cook with her excite me.
On our second visit, we made unicorn horns out of construction paper and pipe-cleaners and decorated them to make Angelika smile when she was not feeling so well during a treatment, and it worked! I leave my unicorn horn in my car so I always have it with me when I go to visit her. It also serves as a constant reminder of how far a smile, some creative thinking, and optimism can take you.
by Sidney Kushner
Every month, the staff at CCChampions gets together for a "Developmental Retreat." At these half-day retreats, we talk about all of our friendships and ask questions like, "If I could remember only one moment from this friendship, it would be..."
When I asked this question to my coworker Jen about Ja'Naya's friendship, we got an unexpected answer:
"That time Justin Bieber got a Duck Tape Makeover."
You see, 12-year-old Ja'Naya loves making Duck Tape creations (no, not duct tape, DUCK tape) with her role model friend Ally. Every time Ja'Naya's in the hospital, Ally visits her and they do all sort of activities like making Duck Tape flowers, painting fingernails, and everything in between.
But one time when Ally & Jen visited Ja'Naya, she had a special surprise for us. Her Barbie & Justin Bieber Barbie were getting ready for Prom, but they had a problem -- they didn't have the right outfits! So Ja'Naya made them head-to-toe Duck Tape outfits. Totally from scratch.
Do you see the bow on Barbie's dress? Ja'Naya's not fooling around!
As soon as Jen shared these pictures with us, we looked up Duck Tape, and a light bulb went off. The company who makes Duck Tape, Shurtech, was one of CCChampions' sponsors for the March to Friendship way back in 2014!
We were brainstorming ways to say "Thank You," and Ja'Naya suggested making them a Duck Tape wallet & writing them a thank you letter!
Moments like these are so overwhelming to me.
When a kid is diagnosed with cancer, everyone wants to give him or her the whole world. It's incredible to see a community come together like that, but our parents tell us how hard it is, at times like these, to teach their kids the importance of giving back. Giving back shows our kids that they have something to give, even during their darkest of days. And it reminds them that we're all in this together. What a powerful boost to our kids' self-esteem.
So when Ja'Naya offered to make something for Shurtech, we thought it was a special moment -- one that we never want to forget.
And guess what? Shurtech sent an AWESOME thank you gift to Ja'Naya!
Thank you, Shurtech, for making Ja'Naya's time in the hospital so much easier, and for giving her an opportunity to give back in such a powerful way!
by Jen Lutz
When I first met six year old Alivia she was a little lady of few words. Though, her sparkling eyes and adorable smile allowed me to see that she is, without a doubt, a bundle of fun.
Alivia loves crafting and creating, drawing and painting, princesses, and stickers. She also enjoys being at home and spending her time playing with her older brother and two sisters (She is a triplet!).
As we worked to match Alivia with a CCChampions friend, we decided that we would need to find someone with a few different and very important strengths. I needed to find a special individual who could put Alivia at ease and draw her out of her shell, as well help her creative spirit and confidence grow. I also knew we would need someone who has the energy and patience to work with Alivia and her three siblings at the same time because those four come as one very cute package.
We decided that our volunteer Taylor, a neurology nurse at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital, definitely had all the right stuff! Taylor and Alivia met for the first time in September on a Friday evening at Alivia’s house. They spent their time together happily drawing, painting, and sharing smiles.
Taylor asked Alivia all sort of questions about school, her new puppy, her cheerleading squad, and her plans for Halloween. Alivia shyly answered Taylor’s questions with smile or shake of her head and at times she simply looked to her siblings to answer for her, which they gladly did.
As their first evening together came to a close Taylor asked Alivia if she could come back and visit again. Alivia’s looked up at Taylor and smiled, and just as we thought that was the end of her answer, Alivia let out an audible, “Yes!” A look of astonishment came over Taylor’s face and both girls started to giggle.
They finished off their evening with an excited round of high-fives.
Alivia and Taylor get together at Alivia’s house one Friday evening each month. They have so much fun crafting and enjoying each other’s company. Most importantly, Alivia’s shell and shyness are slowly melting away. She continues to grow more comfortable and confident during each visit with her friend Taylor.
By: Samantha Wilczynski
Jessica was the first little friend I made when I started at CCChampions. Little friend in size, but big friend in my heart. Every time I get a chance to see her, no matter what is going on in my life, it all goes away when I spend time with Jessica. She makes me smile like no other little girl can! When she smiles, I cannot help but smile and when she laughs, I cannot help but laugh with her.
Throughout my time knowing Jessica we have had so many great experiences together! A lot of the time we spend together involves doing crafts and playing games in the hospital, but we were still able to go out and have lots of fun exploring the different places in the city as well! We’ve had the chance to go to the National Aviary to paint with the penguins and the Children’s Museum to play with the water display, explore music, and much much more!
One of my favorite memories with Jessica was the day we spent at the Children’s Museum. When we were there, there was so much to explore and it was great to see Jessica out of the hospital and having so much fun! She loved putting her arms up to catch different letters and reaching to the stars to make beautiful music. My favorite moment was when we worked together to make new sounds. We realized that if we held hands and worked together, we could reach even more stars and make more music!
We also had the amazing opportunity to paint with the penguins at the National Aviary! Who wouldn’t love to paint with penguins?! To make things even better, our penguin artist Happy was able to paint using Jessica’s favorite color, orange, in her paintings. Jessica was very excited to spend the day at the Aviary. She got to see many different types of birds and her very favorite- the flamingos!
Spending the time at the hospital with Jessica was a special experience for me. It was a unique experience to go back into the hospital where I had spent a lot of time as a teenager and see things from a different perspective. My journey with cancer really gave me an insight into how much Jessica is going through. Though every diagnosis is different, there is something to be said about the experiences that you go through when the 9th floor of the hospital is your second home.
Jessica inspires me to keep going in life, even when you hit the bumps in the road- big and small. I hope that I can inspire her with my story and our time together just like she has inspired me. Don’t doubt her because of her size, this little girl is a fighter!
Types of Friendships