Caps For Kids: CAPturing Smiles for Pediatric Oncology Patients
Three years ago, I began working as an Oncology Social Worker at Children’s Hospital. During that time, I helped provide support to countless families of children and young adults who were diagnosed with a wide range of types of pediatric cancer. As expected, these children received chemotherapy throughout their cancer treatment. One of the effects of chemotherapy is hair loss, which can be a scary and devastating experience at any age, but particularly to a young pediatric cancer patient. It was at Children’s Hospital that I became familiar with The Caps For Kids organization.
Caps For Kids provides celebrity signed baseball caps to pediatric oncology patients at more than 130+ health care facilities throughout the country. Caps for Kids was founded in 1993 by Dr. Stephen Heinrich, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon in New Orleans, Louisiana, and a clinical professor at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center. While treating a young man and fanatic Auburn University fan, Dr. Heinrich gave his patient an autographed cap signed by Terry Bowden, football coach for Auburn University, and Bobby Bowden, football coach for Florida State University. After experiencing the joy a simple hat could bring, Dr. Heinrich organized Caps For Kids to lift the spirits of young cancer patients nationwide.
Each child is able to select their celebrity “hero” and Caps For Kids secures the autograph and sends the cap to the child at no cost. The look on the faces of the child who receive a cap is heart-warming and priceless. Suddenly, a cap becomes more than a hat, it becomes a symbol of hope for these children and their families. To know that their “Cap Hero” is with them during their cancer treatment, brings smiles and encouragement to children during this difficult time in their young lives.
In August 2013, then 12 year old, Austin was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer in his leg. Austin’s personality is one that immediately draws people to him. He always has a smile on his face and no matter what obstacles come his way, he takes it all in stride. Austin’s positive attitude and maturity beyond his years are just two of the reasons he is such a special young man. Austin has a passion for basketball and hopes to one day play again. He was so excited to receive his cap signed by the cast of the popular TV series Duck Dynasty and said, “It makes me feel good to know that someone cares.” Austin is very proud to show off his cool new cap and we’re thrilled to have helped put a big smile on his face.
I have been so moved by the experience of seeing first-hand the way children respond to this small gesture of hope, that I have recently decided to work for Caps For Kids as the National Program Coordinator. There are nearly 15,000 children and young adults who are diagnosed with cancer every year. Our goal is to put a cap on every one of their heads and a smile on each of their faces.
Caps For Kids relies on a variety of Cap Day school and business based programs, along with a network of donors and sponsors to help us cover the program costs. CAPturing smiles has never been so easy!
You can learn more about the organization and ways to support by visiting their website Caps for Kids, checking out their Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram.
Jamie is a native of New Orleans. She obtained her undergraduate degree in Family Relations, Master’s degree in Child and Family Studies and a second Master’s degree in Social Work at the University of Southern Mississippi. This is where she met the love of her life and now husband and of 5 years, Bentley. They are the parents to adorable 6 month old (wonderful) Wyatt. Bentley, Jamie, and Wyatt live in Gentilly with their two dogs, Titus and Lucy. Jamie currently works part time and is the National Program Coordinator for Caps for Kids.