Laura’s Journeys, an Organization Supporting Travel Therapy, Awards 3 Vacations to Cancer Patients at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital

SOURCE: Laura’s Journeys

Grand Prize Winner Chosen by Lance Armstrong During Surprise Visit to Infusion Suite

NEW YORK, NY–(Marketwire – October 26, 2010) –  Patients undergoing treatment for cancer at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital were recently treated to a vacation giveaway and a surprise visit by seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong.

The renowned cancer survivor and founder of LIVESTRONG was joined by LIVESTRONG President and CEO Doug Ulman and American Cancer Society CEO Dr. John Seffrin on a tour of the hospital’s chemotherapy infusion suite. In addition to personally interacting with the patients, the prominent visitors gained first-hand knowledge of the hospital’s quality-of-life initiatives for cancer patients. These include art, music, and massage therapy programs funded by the Helen Sawaya Fund, as well as the travel therapy program funded by Laura’s Journeys (www.laurasjourneys.org).

During the Sept. 22nd visit, three vacations were awarded in the latest raffle from Laura’s Journeys, a support program for cancer patients at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt and other institutions within the Continuum Health Partners network, designed to encourage and facilitate recreational travel for patients along with their family members or friends. The three winners and a runner-up were drawn by Messrs. Armstrong, Ulman, Seffrin and previous Laura’s Journeys winner Rodney Carroll from over 80 entrants, all currently undergoing chemotherapy or radiation treatments. Prior to the drawing, Mr. Carroll told patients and others in the infusion suite about the life-changing impact of his family’s week-long visit to Greece in late-spring.

The latest drawing’s grand prize went to Aida George, 41, a resident of Yonkers, N.Y. being treated for breast cancer. Ms. George won accommodations for seven nights in a fully-furnished, five-bedroom, three-bath vacation home, complete with a private swimming pool and hot tub. The accommodations were donated by Pytha Realty Group of Merritt Island, http://www.pytharealty.com. The winner will travel to Merritt Island with her husband, three children, and her mother, later this fall. In addition to relaxing at the house and beach, the family plans to travel to nearby Orlando, where they will go to Disney World and other theme parks, and visit with family members who live in that area. Laura’s Journeys is providing funding for the family’s travel expenses.

The second winner, who requested privacy, is a 58-year-old male from Westchester County undergoing treatment for colorectal cancer. He will travel with his wife this fall to the Berkshire Mountains for a two-night stay at The Summer White House, a bed & breakfast in Lenox, Mass. 

The third winner, Jean Scheller, a 44-year old resident of Weehawken, N.J. being treated for ovarian cancer, also won a two-night stay at the Summer White House, where she will travel with a friend this fall. In addition to the accommodations, Laura’s Journeys is providing both Berkshires trip winners with funds for meals and local attractions. 

Laura’s Journeys was created by Aberdeen, N.J. resident Bill Parness in memory of his wife Laura, who passed away in November 2008 at the age of 54 after a courageous battle with breast cancer. He developed the program based on the therapeutic benefits he and Laura derived from their extensive travels during the six years she was being treated for advanced breast cancer. Since its inception in late 2009, Laura’s Journeys has sent St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital patients on week-long cruises to the Caribbean and New England/Canada; week-long stays in Greece and Florida; and weekend getaways to the Berkshires. With these three latest trips, the program will have awarded nine vacations to patients in the space of a year. 

Laura Parness was a patient of Gabriel A. Sara, M.D., Medical Director of the Chemotherapy Infusion Suite and Executive Director of the Patient Services Initiative at Continuum Cancer Centers of New York, located at Roosevelt Hospital. As he was with Laura, Dr. Sara is a strong advocate for therapeutic travel for his patients.

“The benefits of our philanthropy programs — including Laura’s Journeys and the music, art and massage therapy programs funded by the Helen Sawaya Fund — are so immense that today, I can hardly imagine running the chemotherapy infusion suite without them,” said Dr. Sara. “Patients’ journeys are transformed as they feel they can play, dream and feel alive, all over again. The fact that LIVESTRONG and ACS chose to visit our unit because of our philanthropy program validates and reaffirms the power of our work. I hope it will help drum up financial support so we can continue to offer this life-altering support to our patients.”

He added: “Lance Armstrong’s visit was a very emotional experience for all of us. During his visit, he interacted with all of us and heard the testimonies of Fuad Sawaya and Bill Parness about their late wives, Helen and Laura, respectively. Lance was very engaged and curious to know more about these programs and how they have transformed the experience of patients and staff alike. During Lance’s interactions with every patient in our infusion suite, you could just feel that this was familiar territory and that he had been there, done that and survived a similar experience. It was touching to see him look into the patients’ eyes and inquire about their feelings. The patients, of course, were so moved. But the highlight of the visit was undeniably the Laura’s Journeys travel raffle. We always start by creating a certain atmosphere of festivity and playfulness. We gave out percussion instruments, and our music therapist played a Beatles song in the middle of the chemo suite, as guests, staff, patients and everyone began to sing. No one could believe this was a chemo suite in which 18 patients were receiving treatment.” 

In early 2010, LIVESTRONG announced they would recognize The Creative Center, a Manhattan-based group that runs the art therapy program at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt and 19 other New York area hospitals, as a “Model Program” and would work with them to expand their Artist in Residence program to 20 new cities across the U.S. This commitment makes LIVESTRONG the largest funder of the program and was the driving force behind Mr. Armstrong’s visit.

“The Creative Center provides patients with a connection to the things they like to spend time doing,” said Mr. Armstrong. “Being exposed to art and music has created a community among the patients that is inspirational. It has been amazing to see the result of LIVESTRONG‘s funding affecting patients in such an overwhelmingly positive way.”