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Tuesday January 31st

Volunteers pair with pediatric patients at N.C. Children's Hospital

	<p>Courtney Cannon poses with her ‘pal’ Jordan Greiner in her hospital room. </p>

	<p>Photo courtesy of Emily Senger.</p>
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Courtney Cannon poses with her ‘pal’ Jordan Greiner in her hospital room.

Photo courtesy of Emily Senger.

When Rebecca Floyd learned in 2009 that her 3-year-old son Franklin’s cancer had returned, she expected to meet new doctors — but not a new friend.

Franklin Floyd was admitted to the North Carolina Children’s Hospital when cancer began to spread from his kidneys to his lungs. It was during this battle that he and his mom met Courtney Cannon, who is now the president of Carolina Pediatric Attention Love and Support.

CPALS is a UNC organization that provides pediatric patients and their families with a distraction from the burden of hospital procedures.

Since 2007, CPALS has grown in size from about 25 volunteers to 120. Cannon said that at the group’s first interest meeting Monday, it will not be able to add any new members.

The organization emphasizes the importance of developing personal relationships with patients and their families through the ‘1:1 pals’ program, in which one patient and one volunteer are paired together.

Emily Senger, publicity chairwoman of CPALS, said that 1:1 pal relationships blossom into more than just a task.

“It looks like, from the outside, that I’m going to see (the patients) as my volunteer time, but it’s really going to see our pals is a break for us,” Senger said. “They put everything into perspective.”

Cannon added that it’s about developing relationships, not doing work.

“You follow this family through probably the roughest time of their lives, and you really do become a part of their family — that is so unlike anything that can happen,” Cannon added.

In addition to one-on-one volunteer opportunities, CPALS puts on fundraising and volunteer events, special projects and patient retreats. These efforts directly benefit the pediatric clinic and support a college scholarship fund for CPALS patients.

Cannon said the group also participates in Relay for Life, adding that her current ‘pal’ Jordan Greiner’s Christmas list inspired this year’s theme.

“One of my pals said to me — she’s five, and if this had been a normal 5-year-old saying this it would have been really cute, but given the situation, I started crying — she said for Christmas she wants a million birthdays,” Cannon said.

Rebecca Floyd said the support CPALS gave to her son has provided a much-needed distraction from the stress of his situation.

“Unless childhood cancer affects your family, the family you live with, the home you live in and the roof you live under, you cannot comprehend the physical and emotional suffering that happens.”

Franklin Floyd has been in remission for a year and a half.

“When I stop to think about how vital all those people — teachers, rec therapists, CPALS volunteers — were, I realize our experience would’ve been absolutely miserable.”

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