GAITHERSBURG, Md., July 13, 2016 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- When Anthony Verona, a chef for Sodexo, world leader in Quality of Life Services, heard how cooking helped 16-year-old Chef Jack Witherspoon cope with battling leukemia three times, he was inspired to invite him to share his experiences with patients and families at University Hospitals Case Medical Center. Now in full remission, Jack often uses his personal story and his cooking skills to connect with other cancer patients and survivors and raise money for cancer research.
Sodexo, a service provider enhancing the patient experience at hospital systems throughout North America, has a long-term partnership with University Hospitals, providing food, environmental and facilities management services for the hospital system. "As the culinary director for University Hospitals, I have a special obligation to live up to Sodexo's mission to improve Quality of Life for the patients, families and communities associated with the hospital system," said Verona. "Jack's story and his approach to food and cooking connect strongly to this mission. He reaches adolescent and child patients on their level, having had many of the same experiences that they are having."
Jack agrees that cooking was essential to his own quality of life while he was receiving treatment. "Cooking was the hope in all of the darkness when I was going through my illness. When I couldn't go to school or hang out with my friends, I could still cook and enjoy food. It was really the silver lining in all of my cancer treatments," said Jack.
Jack travels with his Mom, Lisa Witherspoon, who is his biggest advocate and helped him bring his first cookbook, "Twist it Up" to fruition. "I'm so proud of Jack, and so grateful that he is here to inspire others of all ages through sharing his cancer journey and his cooking," she said.
Jack started his day-long visit on June 30 by touring the oncology unit at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital, part of the University Hospitals Case Medical Center. Following the tour, he held a public cooking demonstration in the hospital's atrium, cooking a couple of his favorite comfort food recipes with a healthy twist. Afterwards, Jack met with several patients and their families and talked with them about his own battles with leukemia. "I've been in their shoes, and my message is that they can get through it. Not just get through it, but thrive and live their dreams too," said Jack.
Later that afternoon, Jack held a private cooking demonstration for families that are part of the hospital's Iris S. & Bert L. Wolstein Kids Kicking Cancer program, targeted to young patients and survivors of cancer and blood disorders. The program encourages them to be active and recognize the benefits of physical activity and healthy eating. Program Director Michelle Rothstein is thankful to Sodexo for connecting Jack with the families. "We are proud to partner with Sodexo to provide this wonderful experience for our kids," she said.
Sodexo delivers more than 100 services across North America that enhance organizational performance, contribute to local communities and improve quality of life. The Fortune Global 500 company is a leader in delivering sustainable, integrated facilities management and foodservice operations.