Annual picnic celebrates beating childhood cancer

BYRON CENTER, Mich. -- Dozens of families, doctors, and nurses gathered at the  Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital’s Annual Reunion Picnic Wednesday night to celebrate beating childhood cancer.

There were games, music, and activities for everyone at Douglas Walker Park in Byron Center.

Lily Loding was there with her dad, Nathan Loding, and her entire family. Looking at her now, you’d never know she was battling a rare form of cancer not too long ago. "It’s kind of an invisible disease; it doesn’t really show," noted Nathan.

Dr. James Fahner, the division chief for hematology and oncology at Helen DeVos Children's Hospital, said this is the 27th year for the annual event. “This a special chance to really enjoy the summer, enjoy the back to school time when we can celebrate with the kids and families, the very high cure rates that we have for children with cancer.”

It’s also a time for those families to see people they only used to see inside hospital walls.

“We get to see some of the nurses, we get to see some of the families that we made connections with over the, I think, 18 months, that we were going through treatment there, and it’s just a great way to reconnect with that community that we became a part of,” Loding said.

A community, he said, means everything when you’re going through one of the toughest times in your life.

“I’m not sure I can even put that into words to be honest.”

Dr. Fahner said that getting to see kids just being kids shows that their hard work is paying off.

“It really means everything to us as the care team to be able to see these success stories, to share those success stories with kids and families that have been on a very long, and a very difficult, and a sometimes life-threatening cancer journey, to come out the other side really enjoying those normal healthy family activities, is really a treat for us to.”

Helen DeVos is celebrating Childhood Cancer Awareness Month all September. Click here to learn more.

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