UVA Children’s Hospital Team Hikes for Pediatric Cancer Research

Imagine spending almost every day of the week caring for children diagnosed with cancer, and providing support for the families of these children. It takes people with a kind heart, a positive attitude and great emotional strength to do this – and not everyone can.

But that’s exactly what these individuals from the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital do. They are pediatric nurses and hematologists/oncologists whose love for children goes beyond their work day. They are currently training and raising money for the Dolly Sods Wilderness Ultimate Hike on June 10th.

Their team, named Hoos4aCure after the UVA Wahoos, was brought together by team captain Laura Nelson, who was inspired by the small superheroes she works with every day and fueled by the story of a friend who lost a young cousin to cancer.

To celebrate National Nurses Day tomorrow, and National Nurses Week, which begins on Sunday, we’d like to introduce you to the team members and share their responses to the question: Why is children’s cancer research so important?

Laura Nelson (Team Captain)

Laura is a nurse working on the in-patient unit at University of Virginia Children’s hospital. Working with the pediatric oncology population is relatively new to her, as in the past 3-4 years. She has been a nurse, however, for over 25 years, and this pediatric population has truly inspired her. She is hiking for these courageous kids and their families. A lot of people ask her how she can hike 20.7 miles in ONE day. Yes, it is a challenge, but she assures you, it is nothing compared to what these kids and their families go through on a daily basis. She is hiking for a CURE.

Laura Nelson

“Children’s cancer research is so important because it’s the only way we are going to find a cure!”

Katie Amos

Katie is a nurse on the Acute Pediatrics unit at UVA Children’s Hospital. Although she’s only been a nurse for a few years, she’s worked and volunteered with children for many years and plans to continue working as a pediatric nurse for many years to come! Over these last few years, numerous oncology patients and their families have inspired Katie. Through participating in CureSearch Ultimate Hike, she is excited to give back to these families in a different way – fundraising and hiking for a cure!

Katie Amos

“As a pediatric nurse, I am honored to hike to raise money for peds cancer research, because these sweet and strong kids and their families deserve so much more!”

Colleen Druzgal

Colleen is a pediatric hematologist/oncologist at the University of Virginia and has been working with children with cancer for over 10 years now. During that time, she has seen too many families devastated by this disease, and too many instances where there was no cure possible. She has participated in numerous clinical trials funded through CureSearch, and seen the difference this can make. She is hiking 20.7 miles for her first Ultimate Hike to raise awareness and in memory of all of the patients that have been lost to childhood cancer. She is the mother of two children, and loves the outdoors and taking hikes with her family, skiing, travel and UVA basketball!

Colleen Druzgal

“As a pediatric oncologist, I’ve seen first-hand the improvements that have been made in pediatric cancer treatments through research studies. The only thing more difficult than telling a parent their child has cancer, is telling a parent there child has cancer with no treatment options. Pediatric cancer research has provided drastic improvements in cure rates for pediatric cancers over the last 50 years, but we can’t stop until we have a treatment for every child, and better treatments that not only cure them, but leave them without lasting, life-altering effects of treatment. Participating in pediatric cancer research and seeing the work that is going on through the Children’s Oncology Group and Curesearch, gives me hope and helps me give hope to patients and families at the saddest times in their lives.”

Christina Gutierrez

Christina is a Pediatric Nurse working at UVA Children’s Hospital. Even though she has been a nurse for 8 years, she is new to taking care of Children with Cancer. Every day, she sees the toll Childhood Cancer takes on the sweet children and families. She is hiking for all the sweet faces that are battling the ultimate fight. There is such resiliency that is seen in these little ones. Also, she is hiking for the sweet souls that have passed on, whom the world will never be the same without. She wants to help support finding a cure so that these families don’t have to walk through the worst time in their lives.

Christina Gutierrez

“Childhood cancer research is so important because these strong, brave, resilient children and families deserve a Cure and the best possible chance to get better!”

Mike Nelson

Mike is an oncology certified nurse who works at the Phillips Cancer Center at Sentara Martha Jefferson. He first discovered CureSearch and the Ultimate Hike when his wife, Laura, recruited him in 2014 to hike with her. Together they raised $5,800 for CureSearch. Although Mike primarily works with adult oncology patients, he has cared for adolescents and young adults. While training and hiking for the Ultimate Hike, he also met several families who have been affected by childhood cancer. Cancer doesn’t discriminate and research is the best way to find a cure. Mike enjoys outdoor activities, sports and is very active with Boy Scouts.

Mike Nelson

“I have seen how cancer effects the adult population, but its effect on children motivates me to want to hike many, many miles.”

Allison Rothe

Allison is a pediatric nurse at UVA Children’s Hospital. She has worked with pediatric oncology patients for the past 13 years. During that time, she has seen the toll that cancer takes on her young patients and their families. She is hiking for all of her patients who have bravely fought and who continue to fight pediatric cancer. This is her first Ultimate Hike. She is excited to fundraise and hike for a cure.

Allison Rothe

“Pediatric cancer research is so important to me. I want to be able to offer my patients, better, safer, and more effective treatments that lead to a cure.”

Megan Shifflett

Megan is the educational consultant for the Hospital Education Program at the University of Virginia Children’s Hospital assigned to the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Team. She has the privilege of being a liaison between, kids, families, schools, and the medical team to keep kids “on track” with their peers while in treatment. Megan is hiking for all the kids and families she works with daily. They give her hope and strength to believe that one day there will be a cure.

Megan Shifflett

“To find a cure-so childhood isn’t spent in the hospital and at clinic appointments but is spent outside being a kid!”

Jennie Weyant

Jennie has been a nurse since 2013 and worked on the pediatric floor of the University of Virginia Health System for three years after graduating. She is currently a clinical nursing instructor at UVA, teaching third year nursing students how to care for the pediatric population. She has cared for many patients during that time who had cancer and remembers many of them by name who died from their disease and the treatments used to help them. She is hiking 1) to raise awareness of childhood cancers and 2) to help support the endeavors to end them all. Please donate to CureSearch and support innovative efforts to treat and cure childhood cancers now.

Jennie Weyant

“As a pediatric nurse who has taken care of many children with cancer, I can see how devastating, emotionally and physically, our current treatment options are and I want to be part of the fight to make those options safer, gentler, and more effective.”

Team Hoos4aCureFrom left to right: Christina Gutierrez, Allison Rothe, Laura Nelson, Mike Nelson, Colleen Druzgal, Megan Daniel, Jennie Weyant

We’re beyond grateful for teams like Hoos4aCure, and we can’t wait to see them at the Dolly Sods Hike!

Support the Hoos4aCure team today, or register for an Ultimate Hike event near you.

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