August 30, 2016

ROC Star Event Hits Homerun for Pediatric Cancer Survivors

Aug. 30, 2016 | For many people, a night at the ballpark is an ordinary summer outing. But for young people with cancer, a simple ballgame can become a lifelong memory.

ROC Stars get a pep talk prior to the Arkansas Travelers baseball game.

ROC Stars get a pep talk prior to the Arkansas Travelers baseball game.

Creating those memories is the idea behind the ROC Star program, an annual event honoring the children and teens treated at the UAMS Radiation Oncology Center (ROC), the only facility in Arkansas offering radiation therapy for children.

The fifth annual event, hosted by the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Auxiliary, was held Aug. 27 at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock. Guests enjoyed an Arkansas Travelers baseball game and buffet dinner. Prior to the game, the young survivors were introduced to the players and escorted onto the field for the national anthem.

“When a child has cancer, the whole family feels the effects of stress and uncertainty. This event is a chance for them to relax and enjoy a fun evening together,” said Peter Emanuel, M.D., director of the UAMS Cancer Institute.

Twelve-year-old Ewing sarcoma survivor Scout Rodgers and her family were back for their second ROC Star event. “We had a great time last year,” said Scout’s mom, April Rodgers. “Being part of this event really made her feel special.” Ewing sarcoma is a tumor that forms in the bone or soft

An Arkansas Travelers baseball players signs autographs for UAMS' youngest radiation oncology patients.

An Arkansas Travelers baseball players signs autographs for UAMS’ youngest radiation oncology patients.

tissue and most often occurs in children and young adults.

The youngest of five siblings, 3-year-old Lily Johnson also is undergoing radiation therapy for Ewing sarcoma. “It took a while to figure out what was wrong with Lily, but she just adapts and always has the best attitude,” said mom Jennifer Johnson.

Fellow parent Gina Dickey was happy for her family to make the three-hour drive from Huntsville so daughter Claire could participate. After experiencing a series of headaches in 2014, Claire was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 3. She underwent more than 30 radiation therapy treatments at ROC.

“When Claire was diagnosed, we were told she might have serious, long-term complications. Thankfully, that never happened. She’s doing well now and just started kindergarten. We’re so happy to be where we are today,” Dickey said.

Prior ROC Star events have been held at the UAMS Cancer Institute, an Arkansas Razorbacks football game and Little Rock’s Museum of Discovery. This was the second year to host the event at Dickey-Stephens Park.

One of UAMS' youngest radiation oncology patients enjoys the ROC Star event at Dickey-Stephens Park.

One of UAMS’ youngest radiation oncology patients enjoys the ROC Star event at Dickey-Stephens Park.

The program began with the encouragement and support of Arkansas’ former First Lady Ginger Beebe. Beebe’s granddaughter, Alexandria, was diagnosed at 11 weeks old with a tumor encircling her spinal column and was treated successfully at Arkansas Children’s Hospital.