The 3rd Annual Swim to Win Against Cancer Pool Swim took place earlier this year in Montclair, N.J., featuring student-athletes from Montclair High School and Newark Academy.
The students participating in the annual swim challenge were lucky enough to meet and participate in a Q&A session with Dr. Taha Merghoub, visiting from an SAA beneficiary, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. Dr. Merghoub is also the Co- Director of the Ludwig Collaborative and Swim Across America Lab at MSK. Sarah Dillon Soden, Associate Director, Annual Giving at MSK also spoke at the event.
The students learned how the nearly $50,000 they’ve raised over the last three years at their pool swim challenge has helped fund the SAA Lab where Dr. Merghoub investigates the pathogenesis and treatment of melanoma.
A special thanks goes out to Montclair High School Swim Coach Ed Koenigsfest and Newark Academy Swim Coach Billy Blomn for supporting SAA and creating a great pool swim challenge where the competition focuses on a common goal.
Learn more about starting an SAA Pool Swim in your community here.
Your donations allow SAA to provide funding to some of the world’s most renowned cancer institutions. This is the first in a series featuring the SAA LABS that our beneficiaries have named in honor of the efforts of Swim Across America.
This month, we are profiling the Swim Across America Adolescent and Young Adult Lounge at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa. The ribbon-cutting ceremony took place in April 2015 (featuring Tampa Bay Open Water Swim Event Director Rob Shapiro, former SAA CEO Janel Jorgensen-McArdle and current SAA CEO Rob Butcher). The SAA AYA Lounge is used by the approximately 100 young adult cancer patients at the hospital every day. Olivia Fridgen, AYA and LATTE Program Coordinator at Moffitt provided this insight.
How has the reception been to the SAA AYA Lounge by patients?
The reception from patients has been amazing. The corkboard wall on the lounge shows patient artwork, the white board has encouragement from patient to patient and the lounge journal has pages and pages of thoughts and inspirational words. It has been a respite for inpatients who need a change of scenery, as a place to spend time with their family and friends who come to visit and a great spot for the AYA (Adolescent and Young Adults) Program to host events and support groups.
Since the SAA AYA Lounge is different from other research-based SAA Labs, what interesting facts can you pass along? We are the 1st AYA Lounge in Florida, the 3rd in the country. We are also unique because our lounge provides physical space not only for our inpatients but our outpatients as well. Some of the traditional lounges are built in conjunction with inpatient units and therefore are not accessible to outpatients. Another unique mention is that our Moffitt AYA Patients actually designed the entire space – they picked out color schemes, fabrics, flooring and lighting so that we were confident our lounge was hitting the mark and what AYA patients would actually want in a space.
Do patients get treatment in the SAA AYA Lounge?
No, the lounge is a place to get away from the hustle bustle of the hospital life. The Lounge has the latest gaming systems, comfy couches, white boards, board games and art supplies. The inpatient floors of the hospital, where admitted patients would receive treatment, is steps away which provides convenience and access to the lounge.
How much did it cost to build the SAA AYA Lounge?
SAA has donated nearly $140,000 to the AYA program over the years and monies from the 2014 race were specifically designated to the creation of the SAA AYA Lounge.
Does the AYA Group anticipate this to be a trend in hospital systems moving forward?
Yes, organizations like Teen Cancer America are working with AYA Programs across the country to fund and offer physical spaces in hospitals for young cancer patients.
Why is it important for Moffitt and other hospitals to have a lounge for adolescent and young adults?
Adolescent and Young Adult patients feel like they are the only 20- or 30-year-old in the entire hospital. While we know that isn’t true, each patient is seen in their respective clinic (for example, if you have breast cancer you’re seen in the Breast Clinic, if you have Lung Cancer you’re seen in Thoracic, etc.), so they never get the chance to run into one another. The Lounge provides a space where Young Adult cancer patients can actually meet another young person with cancer. Because it’s in a communal space, it’s less awkward, more organic and can reduce the feelings of isolation many AYAs feel, which is important to their psychosocial state of mind and also can create lasting friendships. Many of our patients say that family and friends are extremely supportive, but no one quite “gets it” like another young cancer patient.