Fayette County

UK picnic gives kids a break from cancer

Gavin Carr, 7, diagnosed with leukemia early last year, wrapped nurse Sarah Jennings in toilet paper at the picnic.
Gavin Carr, 7, diagnosed with leukemia early last year, wrapped nurse Sarah Jennings in toilet paper at the picnic.

There were no needles, no chemo or radiation, no blood transfusions.

But there were inflatables to bounce on, ponies to ride, clowns to laugh at, games to play and toys to be won.

Also present at the Kentucky Children's Hospital's fifth annual picnic for young cancer patients and survivors at the University of Kentucky E.S. Good Barn Field near Commonwealth Stadium was the realization that life should be taken with gratitude and not for granted.

"We have 49 children here who are receiving treatment for cancer or are cancer survivors," said Andrea Nichols, a pediatric oncology nurse at the hospital.

"We also are remembering those who have passed."

From noon until 5 p.m. Saturday, nurses at the hospital provided free food and entertainment for the children and their families. They raise funds throughout the year for the picnic.

"It's fun to see the kids in such a relaxed environment instead of worrying about treatments and shots," Nichols said. "And I get so many hugs. Also, when the kids get better we don't see them as much in the hospital. It's great to see them here."

Nicholasville lawyer Robert Carr and his wife, Elizabeth, brought their three sons and daughter to the picnic — Tucker, 11; Quinton, 9; Gavin, 7; and Reagan, 4.

Gavin was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in February 2009 at age 5.

He's in remission but still takes chemotherapy, the dad said, immediately noting that his son's last treatment is scheduled for May 26, 2012.

"You don't forget a date like that," he said.

The hardest part, said Gavin's mother, occurred on "day eight of the chemo, when they told us there was no change. Then he got better but still had to be isolated at home for a year — no McDonald's, no getting out."

Saturday was the family's first picnic. They planned to come last year, but Gavin was in the hospital.

The Carrs have this advice for families facing such an ordeal: "First, stop and take a deep breath, realize there is help and most do survive, find a family that has been in this situation, be vigilant about infections and pray."

Gavin spent most of the picnic running. He especially enjoyed the contest in which the children wrapped nurses "mummy-like" with toilet paper.

Nurse Sarah Jennings, who has worked with Gavin, said she did not mind that she was the object of the boy's wrapping.

"It's a good day," she said.