News Releases

September 26, 2018

I'm an RB Kid

Emory Eye Center to host special day for child survivors of eye cancer

Almost 20 years ago – in 1999 – ophthalmology chairman Tom Aaberg, Jr., MD, suggested that Emory Eye Center host a fun-filled day for children who had faced a cancer of the eye known as retinoblastoma (RB). The celebration has grown into a tradition that the children, their families, and EEC volunteers eagerly anticipate.

EEC’s nineteenth RB Kids Day will be held on Saturday, Oct. 6, at Mason Mill Park in Decatur.

“RB Kids Day is one of my favorite things,” says retina specialist Baker Hubbard, MD. He treats these children and assumed physician leadership of the event in 2001. “These patients and families have been through very trying times. Seeing them together reminds us of what we’re doing and why we do it.”

Emory Eye Center faculty, staff, and community volunteers work toward RB Kids Day for months. Many, such as ophthalmic technicians and imaging specialists Jannah Dobbs, Janay Gardner, Melanie Fowler, and Rhonda Waldron, have participated for years.

“What started off as a small picnic for a few children has tripled in size over the years, with hundreds of people – families and volunteers – in attendance,” Dobbs says. “I love watching Dr. Hubbard recognize each RB child individually and present them each with a small gift to show how much they all mean to us.”

“I initially went to RB Kids Day as a volunteer to check in people who come,” Gardner says. “Now I help organize all the volunteers for the event.”

Volunteers are an important part of the day, with many EEC faculty and staff getting their families involved. There are arts and crafts, games with prizes, music, food, and an inflatable slide or bounce house. A visit from the nonprofit group Happy Tails Pet Assisted Therapy is always a highlight, with trained therapy animals adding to the fun.

“I love watching the kids play with the Happy Tails dogs,” Fowler says. “They’re so cute with their painted faces and RB Kids Day t-shirts. And they’re all smiling.”

“One of the best things about the picnic is that families with newly diagnosed babies get to see the successes of the older kids and how ‘normal’ they are,” says Waldron, who helped Aaberg plan the inaugural event. “They see the children running and playing, and get to talk with other parents who truly understand what they’re going through.”

They also hear some amazing stories, such as the RB patient who earned an athletic scholarship to college – with only one eye. Another patient spent a year raising money for RB research and presented a check to Hubbard at the next picnic.

“The best part of RB Kids Day is seeing how many children are thriving and winning the battle with retinoblastoma,” Hubbard says. “They and their families are heroes, and it’s a privilege to work with our team to host a special day for them.”

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