Athletics, Children’s Hospital host event for cancer patients

The 10th annual Gold Ribbon Day brought patients and families to an MU football game.
Zoey Martinez, 4, of Fulton waits patiently as her face is painted by Susie Getzlaff during the 10th annual MU Gold Ribbon Day on Friday near Stankowski Field. Martinez was treated at the MU Children's Hospital for a brain tumor, but has been in remission for two and a half years.

The parking lot south of Stankowski Field was filled with food, face painting and balloon animals Saturday to provide young cancer patients and their families a day of entertainment.

The MU Children’s Hospital and the Athletics Department partnered to sponsor the 10th annual Gold Ribbon Day, which included special, free seating at the football game for participants.

Kim Ebersol, a nurse practitioner from the hospital, said the event offered sick children the chance to experience a day of normalcy.

“The kids really enjoy it,” Ebersol said. “They get to go to the game and hang out and be normal kids. They get to take a break from thinking about their cancer. It’s nice to see them in a setting outside of the clinic, without having to see them in pain or give them medicine.”

In addition to producing a fun-filled environment, social worker Lauren Grana said Gold Ribbon Day is important to help families get to know one another.

“The day is a good way for families to develop a support system,” she said. “We get to see the rest of the family. Siblings don’t usually come to the clinic. We get to see them interacting with their families when they are not scared and not being poked by needles.”

Michael and Dina Palmer’s daughter Emma is in remission after undergoing treatment for clear cell sarcoma, a rare kidney cancer. They said they appreciated the camaraderie of the fellow families.

“Emma sees other kids who have been where she has been and is,” Dina Palmer said. “They understand each other. It’s been very helpful to have families who know what you’re going through.”

Greg Russom’s son Jonathan was diagnosed with cancer in 2008. Gold Ribbon Day gave him the chance to see his four-year-old son enjoy simply being a child.

“Jonathan really likes the face painting,” Russom said. “And he thinks y’all put this football game on just for him. He calls it 'his football game.' I think it’s very nice that he gets some distraction to keep his mind off being sick.”

As a parent, the event also allowed Russom to relax.

“Everything I do, I plan around his sickness,” he said. “It’s a relief to have that taken care of.”

Columbia resident Jessica Widner was diagnosed with a brain tumor in November after leaving work due to a severe headache. After a CT scan revealed the mass, Widner underwent surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Although she opted out of the face painting, Widner said she, too, benefited from Gold Ribbon Day.

“For me, it’s nice to get out of the hospital, and a lot of these kids don’t have a lot of stuff besides school that they get to do,” Widner said. “I think it’s really cool that the hospital does this.”

Members of Mizzou Dance Marathon attended the event to sell T-shirts honoring the patients and recruit members. For junior Ryan Bueckendorf, Gold Ribbon Day is a chance to personally meet the recipients of his club’s philanthropy.

“All the proceeds from Dance Marathon go to the Children’s Hospital,” Bueckendorf said. “This is an extension of that. We get ourselves out here with the people we’re supposed to be helping. I really enjoy it and it’s for a great cause. You can’t ask for more than that.”

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