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FAMILY   -   FAMILY FEATURES
Bumping into the Present
September, 2005 - Issue #11
The "ding, ding, ding" of the Farrell's Ice Cream Parlor bell clashed with the clunk of wooden balls landing on the slick striped surface of the Skee Ball game at Mountasia. Arcade sounds form a stark contrast to the shrill alarms of IV pumps and overhead pages that families faced with childhood cancer are more familiar with in their day-to-day battle for life. The Annual Family Fun Night hosted by The Michael Hoefflin Foundation and Mountasia provided a lighthearted respite for the nearly 110 people who were able to attend.



Children tugged at moms and dads as they entered Mountasia and received their shiny brass tokens and treasured arm bands. Tickets are traded for trinkets at the prize counter; goodies like plastic poppers, candy and disco balls are their reward for mastering arcade monsters. Prizes make them feel like winners!



Put a child with cancer in an arcade and they let go; put the parent of a child with cancer in an arcade and they hang on. Adults know too much about the realities of childhood cancers, how cancer is the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children under the age of 15 and how the word "cured" lacks the connotation of longevity it once had.



Mothers and daughters took their seats in bumper boats as dads looked on, choosing cautiously the comfort of the cool grass to observe the gaiety. Three fathers in particular watched from a distance as their wives and youngsters smiled and frolicked, bouncing in boats with growling motors, forcing the seriousness away. Sadly, these dads share a look common only to men like them, men who have lost a child to cancer. Memories of Melissa, Justin and Devin splash these fathers with a measure of reality that shows on their faces. They think of arcade days past, when all their children played freely. Rumblings of grief seem to be most present in times like this.



But the children well enough to be present involve themselves fully in the task at hand, free from the restraint of the intravenous lines whose ports are hidden beneath their t-shirts. Siblings and children with cancer alike focus on the fun. Even little Elizabeth. who 10 days prior sat in the ICU at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, after having most of her liver removed, laughed openly with her brothers who ran from hole to hole on the miniature golf course, smiling brightly with a light seen far less frequently than before her diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.



Moments like these magnify the importance of time well spent. When a parent makes a statement like, "It is so nice to enjoy time laughing and feeling care-free, at least for a little while," we at the Michael Hoefflin Foundation know that providing services like nights of fun are of primary importance in the long term-nature of the fight against this disease. On nights like this, we are all winners.



On September 17, the Michael Hoefflin Foundation will host their annual Gala Dinner and Auction. For tickets or to make a donation, please call the foundation at 250-4100 or visit www.mhf.org.



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Lisa DeLong is the Family Outreach Coordinator for the Michael Hoefflin Foundation and can be reached at lisad@mhf.org. The Foundation serves families who have a child with cancer by offering a variety of services free of charge, which include support groups, family-friendly events, gas and grocery support as well as financial assistance.
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