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Charity aims to lessen parents' stress at Children's Hospital

| Friday, Jan. 21, 2011

Organizers of a North Huntingdon-based charity hope to take some of the stress off of parents with a child going through cancer treatment.

The Genre's Kids With Cancer Fund is supplying families with to-go bags of personal-care items for parents while their children stay at the hospital.

Nurses on the oncology floor at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh give a bag to each family during the child's first stay at the hospital.

Daunette Baker, president of the Genre's Kids With Cancer Fund, said she hopes parents keep the bag stocked with personal care items so they are ready to go when their child needs to return to the hospital.

She started using a to-go bag while her son, Genre, 10, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia on Memorial Day in 2009.

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia causes bone marrow to make too many lymphocytes, a type of white blood cell. The excess lymphocytes keep the body from producing healthy white or red blood cells and platelets, which could cause infection, anemia and hard-to-control bleeding.

Genre's diagnosis came in the middle of the night.

Daunette and her husband, John Baker, stayed by Genre's side at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh for 14 days. It was the first of many stays.

The Bakers needed several items to take care of themselves while Genre stayed in the hospital. Luckily, a friend brought them a tote bag of personal-care supplies, such as deodorant, razors and shaving cream, antacids and Tylenol, notebooks, pens and a deck of playing cards.

After their first stay, the Bakers kept the bag packed with those items, so it would be ready for every trip to the hospital.

"Having the packed bag took away a lot of stress," Daunette said. "I didn't have to worry about collecting things for myself -- I could focus on Genre."

Each month, Daunette and Genre bring approximately 10 packed bags to Children's Hospital. Each bag costs about $30 to assemble and is paid for through donations and fundraisers for the Genre's Kids With Cancer Fund.

Typically, the hospital gives out six to eight bags each month, according to Mike Shulock, the oncology in-patient unit's Child Life Specialist.

Shulock said parents often are blindsided by their child's diagnosis and forget about caring for themselves during the initial hospital stay.

"A lot of times, they don't know what's coming, so they don't have things ready for themselves because they're rushing around," Shulock said. "It's something the parents appreciate when they receive them, and those essentials go a long way."

Daunette said she and John stayed more than 50 nights at Children's Hospital since Genre's diagnosis and used their bag almost every time.

Genre must undergo treatment through September 2012, so the Bakers plan to keep their bag filled and ready to go at all times.

The pre-packed bags make frequent trips to the hospital easier, Genre said.

"It made me feel better because they didn't have to worry as much," Genre said. "They don't have to worry as much while they're at the hospital because they have everything they need in their bags."

For more information on Genre's Kids With Cancer Fund, or to make a donation, visit www.genreskidswithcancerfund.com , or contact genreskidswithcancerfund@comcast.net .

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