I’ve been thinking a lot about superheroes lately.

Outwardly, superheroes are flashy. Traditionally, they swoop in donning shiny capes and tights while wielding swords and shields. Armed with this regalia, they unlock supernatural powers. They protect and defend with strength and speed. They are invincible. Altruistic.

Underneath that flash, however, superheroes are everyday citizens. Their powers hail from adversity. The battles they fight — cape or no — become their common ground. Sometimes, they are just family members trying to survive.

On Saturday, April 1, superheroes of all shapes and sizes will gather. They will delight in their dress and they will run, walk, cheer — STOMP. Also on common ground. For a common cause.

Pediatric cancer.

This is no dynamic duo. It’s a pair of terms that should not go hand-in-hand. Batman and Robin. Absolutely! Cloak and Dagger. Of course. But not pediatric and cancer.

And while it is just not right, this villain still shows up.

“What is your superpower?” I asked Katherine Murphy, 24 Foundation’s Executive Director.

“I show up,” she replied modestly. “And this community shows up.”

“Our flagship fundraiser, 24 Hours of Booty, benefits cancer survivorship and navigation for all ages. Pediatrics is a part of that — an important part — but we wanted to create an event that is earmarked only for pediatrics,” Murphy added. “Kids are such an important part of the 24 Foundation. They are the smallest superheroes of our community. So we created the Superhero Stomp.”

Simply put, the Superhero Stomp directly supports important, life-altering programming at Levine Children’s Hospital (LCH) that enhances the lives of children and their families diagnosed with pediatric cancer.

24 Foundation friend and phenom, Dr. Jen Pope, is the Director of Supportive Medicine in the Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Department at LCH. Through 24 Foundation and other generous philanthropic donors, Dr. Pope’s team ensures that every child and young adult that enters the LCH cancer sphere has access not only to world-class medical care, but also to the supportive services that allow them to thrive both during and after treatment.

“While the cure rate for childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer has dramatically increased over the past 30 years, this remarkable feat comes at a cost. As a result of their disease and treatment, cancer survivors may experience physical, psychological, and social consequences — some of which are lifelong. I am on a crusade to make sure there is no niche, no consequence, untapped,” Dr. Pope added. “I am profoundly grateful for the Superhero Stomp which will directly fund these critical services.”
The mission of Dr. Pope’s team is to enable patients to become the healthiest, happiest, and most successful versions of themselves both during and after their treatment. This includes engaging with specialists such as dietitians, art and music therapists, and child life specialists. Together, her team creates holistic supportive medicine plans, tailored to complement each patient’s medical treatment plan. Dr. Pope works closely with families to also develop plans that address nutrition, exercise, sleep, and coping strategies to maximize patient and family wellness. “I exist to make sure that our patients when they finish therapy are as content, successful, healthy, as they can be.”

Dr. Pope’s superpower? She brings people together like a conductor to make magic happen.

Kids should be able to be kids. One of the areas on this team that ensures they can help them still feel like kids is Child Life. The National Cancer Institute defines a child life specialist as a healthcare professional who is trained in the emotional and developmental needs of children. The LC-CBD Child Life team has three certified Child Life specialists addressing both inpatient and outpatient services with a goal to continue to integrate these services into every patient’s treatment plan and to continue to collaborate with the multidisciplinary team to improve patient experience, understanding, and coping, while simultaneously reducing fear and anxiety surrounding the hospital experience.

Child Life services are evidence-based; they have been scientifically proven to aid patients and families by reducing fear, anxiety, and pain while increasing their understanding and coping in the healthcare setting.

Perhaps, however, 9-year-old Mia put it best, “Child life really helped me through hard parts of treatment. I always have child life with me when I’m assessed, and it makes me feel safer and more comfortable. Child life is important for kids like me.”

• • •

So on April 1 (It’ll be here in a flash, no foolin’!), at the first-ever Superhero Stomp, we come together to support the true heroes, like Mia, that day.

Participants of all ages, grab your capes and tights. Lace your shoes. It isn’t about racing. Or running. Or even about walking. It’s about steps. Big steps for small heroes.

No superpowers necessary.

Dr. Pope and Katherine recently spoke with WBTV’s John Carter about the Superhero Stomp. Check out the interview here.
Written by Courtney Oates
Courtney is a 24 Hours of Booty participant. She rides and walks with Team GoJenGo.

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