Family Celebration Day

Bringing together transplant patients of all ages for a day of food, family and fun

The brilliant color of the leaves. The crisp and undeniable smell of the Fall air. The loud crack of a baseball bat connecting with ball, signifying the exact moment when a fastball morphs into a home run. These are just a few of the sights, sounds and smells that make a New England Autumn so magical. And for the seventh year in a row, we’re proud to add the Pediatric Transplant Center’s Family Celebration Day at Kimball Farm to that list.

On September 22nd, the official first day of the Fall season, hundreds of people made the trek to Westford, MA, where our transplant recipients and their families were treated to a day of food, face painting, miniature golf, bumper boats, arcade games, a driving range, batting cages and more.

Upon entering Family Celebration Day younger patients and their siblings received new stuffed animals from Child Life specialists, who then taught the kids how to perform “checkups” on their new animal friends. The children played the role of doctor as they took the dolls’ temperatures, checked their blood pressure and even performed the occasional surgery.

“Medical play with stuffed animals is a hands-on play experience that allows children become familiar and more comfortable with medical procedures,” says Kirsten Getchell who helped run the stuffed animal clinic. “The kids see it as a fun, but at the same time they are developing a better understanding of the medical environment, which can help lessen any anxiety, fear and misconceptions they may have about their diagnosis, or the diagnosis of a sibling.”

But Family Celebration Day is about far more than entertaining young children. Several activities were geared for teenage transplant recipients as well, which provided the opportunity for them to meet and socialize with people their own age who have similar life experiences. This year teens had the opportunity to decorate t-shirts, play corn hole, and try Teens Take Charge™, the Pediatric Transplant Center’s web-based game that is in the final stages of development. This focused learning tool pits users against each other to compete for high scores while providing vital information about staying healthy after transplant.

“Unlike a lot of the educational material available for transplant patients, Teens Take Charge addresses concepts like healthy eating, avoiding infection and the importance of sticking to medication routines in a way teenagers can relate to—through gaming,” says Kirsten Getchell one of TTC’s creators. “It’s a new way to look at patient education, and judging from the reactions we got at Family Celebration Day, teenagers are as excited about the idea as we are. It could lead to a whole new way of interacting and educating our adolescent patients.”

But the day’s most popular attraction wasn’t geared at any specific age group. The “Dunk Your Doctor” tank was by far the most loved event at Family Celebration Day and attracted people of all ages. For the first time ever, attendees who made a donation to the Pediatric Transplant Center Special Needs Fund had the opportunity to step up to a dunk tank and soak one of our transplant physicians. All other activities came to a halt as everyone gathered to see Dr. Heung Bae KimDr. Debra BoyerDr. Nancy Rodig and Dr. Leslie Smoot each take their turn in the tank. By the end of the day all four docs were thoroughly drenched but smiling because the event managed to raise over $700 to support transplant families in need.

As always families were treated to an American BBQ buffet lunch, followed by Kimball Farm’s famous homemade ice cream. In all 364 people (78 transplant recipients, 220 family members and 67 Boston Children’s staff) enjoyed a day of beautiful fall weather and community with their fellow transplant families, making it one of the most memorable Family Celebration Days on record, and we’re already looking forward to seeing everyone next year!