This week I had the opportunity to meet Olivia. Olivia is a middle school student from the Annapolis area who chose to create care packages for young adult patients fighting cancer at UMGCC as part of her 8th grade capstone project. Olivia babysat to raise the funds and researched what would be the best items to include in the care packages. She chose activity/crossword books, along with toiletry products and healthy snack items. Olivia also brought a selection of magazines to choose from and made sure there were care packages for both men and women.
I was curious to know why Olivia wanted to complete her community service within an adult cancer center rather than a pediatric setting which seemed like the obvious choice to me. Being a regular babysitter, Olivia enjoys spending time with younger children, and although extremely mature for a middle school student, she is much closer in age to the pediatric cancer patients and might enjoy talking with them more. When I asked her about this she shared with me that she too has been impacted by “young adult cancer,” losing a good friend’s parent to the disease.
To be honest, I was a bit nervous about how the patients would respond to Olivia’s generosity. Sometimes folks in treatment (especially those in the hospital) just feel so miserable that they are not in the mood for new visitors. I was worried as well that Olivia might be frightened or shocked by the physical suffering she would see. But Olivia’s positive energy made everyone feel great. It’s hard not to smile and perk up for a young person who is making such a generous, selfless effort…not enough youngsters like that these days! And even though she is just in eighth grade she was able to carry on “adult conversations” with some of the older, young adults. For the younger ones, in their teens and 20s, it was nice for them to meet someone just a few years younger than them.