In November 2011, 2-year-old Hope Bolster, was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma, a form of muscle cancer. Following the diagnosis, Hope endured surgeries to remove an abdominal tumor and a bowel obstruction, as well as proton beam therapy, during which she had to be anesthetized so she would lie still.
But on Fridays, Hope and her sister, 6-year-old Quinn, could be carefree. Friday was the day the toy closet in the Mass General Cancer Center would open. For children living with cancer and their siblings, toys have power – they provide an escape from needles and medications.
The special closet is made possible through the Toy Box program, which receives funding from The Friends of the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center, a volunteer group that raises money for educational and support services for oncology patients. Each week, the Toy Box distributes more than 35 toys to pediatric cancer patients and their siblings. The toys are the children’s to keep and enjoy. They provide positive memories during a difficult time.
“The Friends partner with caregivers like Rachel Bolton, a generous, enthusiastic pediatric nurse in Radiation Oncology who created and administers this program,” says Barbara Hawkins, treasurer and grants committee chair of The Friends, explaining that Bolton often goes shopping to look for toys and even sews some handmade toys. “Rachel uses our funds to bring a dose of joy and comfort into the routine of pediatric patients and their siblings.”
Since 1984 the Friends of the Mass General Cancer Center has provided ongoing financial support for a wide range of non-medical care programs at the Mass General Cancer Center. This volunteer philanthropic group raises funds primarily for supportive care services provided to patients and families at no cost. These services include wellness and educational programs, a cancer resource room, a healing garden and an emergency fund for patients and families.