MESA, Ariz., Oct. 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ -- Aflac, the leading provider of voluntary insurance sales at the worksite in the U.S. and a committed corporate ally in the fight against childhood cancer, today honored the McKenzie Monks Foundation and heroes Joel Nava and Scott Starr with Duckprints Awards for leaving their footprints in the battle against childhood cancer.
"Aflac's longstanding fight on behalf of children with cancer and their families has been a source of great pride, motivation and inspiration for the broad Aflac family for over 20 years," Aflac Foundation President Kathelen Amos said. "We are pleased to welcome Cardon Children's Medical Center to our ongoing Duckprints celebrations and to honor each of these heroes for their unique contributions in this ongoing effort to eradicate childhood cancer."
The 2016 Duckprints Awardees are:
- McKenzie Monks Foundation — The foundation was created in honor of 4-year-old McKenzie Monks who lost her battle with cancer but leaves her footprint with each Kenzie Kase that is given to another child undergoing cancer treatment. The McKenzie Monks Foundation also created Kenzie Korner, a special place for young patients to take a break during treatment, at Cardon Children's Medical Center.
- Joel Nava — A former patient at Cardon Children's Medical Center and a soon-to-be nurse at Cardon, Nava has a long history of bringing cheer to the hospital halls even through his leukemia diagnosis at age 13.
- Scott Starr — A former Cardon patient whose cancer diagnosis did not slow his dreams of graduating high school, Scott now gives his time as a mentor to other pediatric cancer patients and raises awareness for childhood cancer.
Local entertainer Lucky Romero, a longtime volunteer and now volunteer coordinator for Banner Desert and Cardon Children's Medical Center, is host of the event.
Childhood cancer is the No. 1 cause of death by disease for children under the age of 15, according to the National Cancer Institute. However, less than 5 percent of federal funding for cancer research goes to pediatric cancer, according to the Children's Cancer Fund. Since 1995, Aflac has contributed more than $110 million to bridge the gap in funding and help find the cure.
As part of the grassroots Duckprints campaign that began in 2013, Aflac is calling on people across America to become active in the cause. Aflac is donating $2 to the fight against children's cancer for each Duckprints-related social media activity on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and/or Instagram, up to $1.5 million. Related social actions include:
Twitter - $2 for any tweet using the hashtag #Duckprints or for retweets of Duckprints-related tweets.
Facebook - $2 for any share of specific posts related to Duckprints or using #Duckprints.
YouTube - $2 per view of the Duckprints videos on YouTube.
Instagram - $2 for every post using the hashtag #Duckprints.
Aflac also created a website (aflacduckprints.com) that enables users to nominate unsung heroes in their community who have made a difference in the lives of children and families facing cancer. People can follow the Aflac Duck on his journey to hospitals around the country honoring those who have made a difference in the fight against childhood cancer. In addition, merchandise such as plush Aflac Ducks and Duckprints-related T-shirts, slippers and other items are available for purchase at aflacduckprints.com, with all of the net proceeds going toward the treatment and research of childhood cancer.
About Duckprints Award recipient McKenzie Monks Foundation
McKenzie Monks was just 3 years old when those dreaded words were heard: "She has cancer." McKenzie was diagnosed with bilateral Wilms tumor – cancer in both kidneys. Life would never be the same for her and those who loved her dearly.
Immediately, McKenzie and her family took action. McKenzie faced a new life of doctors, needles, 11 months of chemo, 12 surgeries, 50 radiation treatments, intense pain and the brutal process of undergoing a bone marrow transplant. During her courageous journey, McKenzie was often seen pulling her Hello Kitty suitcase filled with some of her favorite things to keep her busy and provide her comfort during treatment.
After 19 months, McKenzie left the life of pain she had come to know, but what she left behind continues to be a gift to so many. McKenzie's family – her mom, Denise Monks; dad, Richard Monks; and sisters, Michelle and Mandy Monks – knew they wanted to keep her spirit alive. Their footprints began with the creation of the McKenzie Monks Foundation. The mission of their work is to help children cope with the long days of battling cancer. Since 2004, nearly 3,000 Kenzie Kases have been given to children that are fighting cancer. These Kases were inspired after the Hello Kitty suitcase that brought McKenzie joy and comfort. Each child receives a Kase with an iPad (or DVD player), blankets, toys and crafts.
Not only does the McKenzie Monks Foundation provide Kenzie Kases, but it has also created a special space at Cardon Children's for young patients. Kenzie Korner was built for children to step away from their treatment for much needed breaks where they can relax, have fun and just be a kid.
About Aflac Duckprints Award recipient Joel Nava
Joel Nava was diagnosed at 13 years old with high-risk acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) in May 2003, and later it relapsed in his central nervous system.
He was a quiet, caring and polite young teen who was very bright and had plans for high academic achievement. The two things that Nava loved most were his family and school. His biggest worry at diagnosis was that he was just about to start at Brophy College Preparatory school and missed the entire first year. Because of his love of academics, it took a lot to keep him busy and not bored on long hospital stays – especially when he had shingles and had to stay in his room.
In fact, he decided to write a hospital newsletter and posted it in the staff bathroom for all to know the happenings and gossip of the unit. The newsletter frequently had doctor and nursing tidbits in it regarding life events such as who was in school, who was getting married and who was pregnant. The nurses still talk about Nava's newsletter. Nava also made a paper snowman once and would change the theme of the snowman on the unit wall when he came in for admissions to correspond with the holiday or someone's birthday. He loved to teach the nurses Spanish and would laugh when he would make them say crazy things.
As a young adult, Nava took a trip to Japan in a World Study Abroad Program. While there he decided he wanted to pursue a career in nursing. Nava went on to ASU Nursing School and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and health innovation. He credits his pediatric oncology nurses as his mentors, saying, "My nurses were there for me," and they "epitomize the idea of compassion and empathy."
Nava is joining the team at Cardon Children's Medical Center as a pediatric oncology nurse.
About Aflac Duckprints Award recipient Scott Starr
Scott Starr left his footprints at Cardon Children's Medical Center from the beginning of his battle with Burkitt's lymphoma at the end of his junior year of high school in May 2015.
The diagnosis came right as Starr was beginning his lifelong dream of entering the Marines. Starr soon learned that because of his diagnosis, he would not be able to meet the Marine health requirements. However, this did not stop him from moving forward to plan B, which included finishing high school.
Starr's cancer treatment included several severe surgeries, planned and unplanned, along with chemotherapy. Not only did he endure this difficult treatment, but he spent weeks on a ventilator in the pediatric ICU. Yet Starr never let himself be defined by his cancer.
Starr never lost his smile, positive attitude and sense of humor. He remained who he was, passionate about the military, his family, his friends, and his will to overcome each and every obstacle. Following Starr's last surgery, doctors informed his family it would be several days and maybe even weeks before he would be up and moving again. Starr was up and out of his bed within 24 hours of his final surgery.
Due to all the challenges he faced during treatment, it was unclear whether Starr would be able to meet the requirements to graduate from high school. As graduation approached, Starr worked hard on completing his school work and was able to fulfill his dream of graduating.
Starr is now cancer free and has since been considering becoming an EMT or a firefighter. Though he has completed all his treatments, he continues to leave his footprints on Cardon Children's Hospital through his involvement in community programs to help raise awareness as well as through mentoring of several other patients who are battling cancer.
About Lucky Romero
Banner associate Lucky Romero has been involved with Banner Health since 2001, when he became a volunteer at Banner Desert Medical Center.
In 2003, Romero was hired as a Banner associate at the hospital he volunteered with for nearly 300 hours of service. Since then, Romero has been an advocate for giving back to the community and has helped with many campaigns, events and councils as the host, coordinator or chair.
It is only fitting that Romero is one of the volunteer coordinators today for Banner Desert and Cardon Children's Medical Center. This truly is a role he enjoys because he gets to work with compassionate people on a daily basis who aspire to give back to their community by becoming a volunteer in a medical facility.
When a policyholder gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fast. For six decades, Aflac insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the United States, Aflac is the leading provider of voluntary insurance sales at the worksite. Through its trailblazing One Day PaySM initiative, Aflac U.S. can receive, process, approve and disburse payment for eligible claims in one business day. In Japan, Aflac is the leading provider of medical and cancer insurance and insures 1 in 4 households. Aflac individual and group insurance products help provide protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. For 10 consecutive years, Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies. In 2016, Fortune magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for the 18th consecutive year and included Aflac on its list of Most Admired Companies for the 15th time, ranking the company No. 1 in innovation for the insurance, life and health category for the second consecutive year. In 2015, Aflac's contact centers were recognized by J.D. Power by providing "An Outstanding Customer Service Experience" for the Live Phone Channel. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac and One Day PaySM, visit aflac.com or espanol.aflac.com.
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