By: Laura Ilgun, Executive Director, Vannie E. Cook Jr. Cancer Foundation
About the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Cancer Foundation: The mission of the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Cancer Foundation, Inc. is to serve the needs of South Texas residents by supporting cancer-related patient services, programs, research and education. Since 2000, the sole purpose of Vannie Cook has been to provide financial and in-kind support to the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Children’s Cancer & Hematology Clinic and the thousands of children it serves each year.
Tell us about your most memorable day (so far) in your work at Vannie Cook Foundation.
In the 18 years I have worked at Vannie Cook, there have been so many memorable days, especially when there is a “Ring the Bell” celebration in the chemotherapy area. This happens when a child has been medically determined to be cancer free and will have his/her last treatment. The “Ring the Bell” celebrations are filled with emotion and hope as family, friends, doctors, nurses and staff all gather together in love and support of a brave child. The child rings the bell and, if able to, reads aloud a poem with the words, “I ring the bell with all my might, I have finished this journey, I smile, I am strong, I am happy, I am done!” There is never a dry eye at a “Ring the Bell” celebration at Vannie Cook!
How has the community benefitted from work funded by the Moody Foundation?
This community, which includes a four-county area in South Texas, has benefited tremendously from the work funded by the Moody Foundation. Most importantly, the funds make possible the provision of high quality, pediatric cancer and hematology care close to home, without regard to a families’ ability to pay. It means children living in the region who are diagnosed with cancer, or a serious blood disease, have a chance to survive without having to leave their home and support systems behind. Parents who hear the words “your child has cancer” can have comfort knowing their child will have access to the best care and treatment available, all delivered by a team of skilled and compassionate physicians and nurses.
Tell us how you used the most recent grant from the Moody Foundation.
The first grant awarded by the Moody Foundation helped support the operation of the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Children’s Cancer and Hematology Clinic. More specifically, the grant made possible the free use of a 28,000 square foot state-of-the-art medical facility and operating support to help defray the high cost of care, including chemotherapy, to a primarily low-income patient population. At Vannie Cook, no child will ever be denied care.
How has the Moody Foundation’s grant helped further and expand your mission?
Children from the region are being diagnosed with cancer at alarming rates, and it remains the number one cause of non-accidental death in children all over the country. One of the most challenging situations for the Vannie Cook Children’s Cancer and Hematology Clinic is the constant growth in patient numbers.
Recently, it’s been noted that much of that growth is occurring in Cameron County. As a result, the Clinic will be adding a fifth full-time physician and a second clinic location in Brownsville. This expansion will help facilitate and improve access to care for many Vannie Cook Clinic patients that reside there. The Moody Foundation greatly helps advance our mission to support Clinic operations, which now includes expanding the service area to address the growing and continued need for pediatric cancer care and treatment in South Texas.