Aflac, the leading provider of voluntary insurance sales at the worksite in the U.S. and a committed corporate ally in the fight against childhood cancer, and Palmetto Health Foundation proudly presented Duckprints Awards to four heroes who have left their footprints in the fight against childhood cancer. At the ceremony, which was held at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina on Sept. 7, attendees also heard the story of DJ Fisher, a 17-year-old patient at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, who provides invaluable peer support to other children also undergoing cancer treatment.
The master of ceremonies for the event was Todd Ellis, legendary Carolina Gamecock quarterback and the current voice of the University of South Carolina Gamecocks. Ellis’ daughter Logan is a childhood cancer survivor. Also speaking at the ceremony was Aflac Senior Vice President, Chief Administrative Officer Virgil Miller.
The 2016 Duckprints Awardees are:
- Stacy R. Sawyer — a valued advisor and advocate for CAMP KEMO, a weeklong summer camp for patients ages 5-18 with cancer and their siblings, where she served as chairwoman of CAMP KEMO’s Advisory Council in 2014 and 2015, vice chairwoman in 2013 and on the council in 2006. She receives this award posthumously; her memory lives on with the success of CAMP KEMO.
- Paul and Sarah Towns — longtime CAMP KEMO supporters who bring happiness to children each year through Elgin Lights, a Christmas lights show that honors Cole Sawyer, who lost the fight to childhood cancer in 2004.
- Ronnie Neuberg, M.D. — the Aflac medical director of the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital.
“The fight waged by Aflac and our partners like Palmetto Children’s Hospital on behalf of children with cancer and their families remains a source of great pride, motivation and inspiration for the broad Aflac family,” Aflac Foundation President Kathelen Amos said. “Each Duckprint honoree has made a unique contribution, and leaves their own indelible legacies in this ongoing effort, and this shared struggle has forged a bond among us all.”
Samuel Tenenbaum, president of Palmetto Health Foundation, added, “The honorees inspire us with their compassion and commitment and through our partnership with Aflac, we are able to express our thanks in a lasting way to these people who are making such a positive impact in the lives of patients and their families. I congratulate each of them and am proud that their place on our Wall of Fame is forever secure. We are grateful to Aflac for touching our community in such a profound way.”
Over the last 20 years, Aflac has contributed more than $108 million in the battle against childhood cancer. As part of the grassroots Duckprints campaign, Aflac is calling on people across America to become active in the cause. Aflac donates $2 to the fight against children’s cancer for any Duckprints-related social media activity on Facebook, Twitter and/or Instagram, up to a $1.5 million maximum.
Aflac also created a website (aflacduckprints.com) that enables users to nominate unsung heroes in their community who have made a difference in the lives of children and families facing cancer. People can follow the Aflac Duck on his journey to hospitals around the country, honoring those who have made a difference in the fight against childhood cancer. In addition, merchandise such as plush Aflac Ducks and Duckprints-related T-shirts, slippers and other items are available for purchase, with all of the net proceeds going toward the treatment and research of childhood cancer.
About Duckprints Award recipient Stacy R. Sawyer
Although her life ended much too soon, Stacy Sawyer left an indelible imprint on the lives of countless children facing cancer. When her own son, Cole, was diagnosed with cancer, Stacy and the entire Sawyer family became intimately acquainted with the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. They saw firsthand the specialized treatment and the caring staff and physicians, and they became part of the family. Cole died at age 11 in 2004, and in spite of deep sorrow, Stacy worked tirelessly to bring comfort to other patients and families affected by childhood cancer. She knew how invaluable CAMP KEMO, a weeklong summer camp for patients ages 5-18 with cancer and their siblings, was to the hundreds of children and their brothers and sisters who enjoyed a week at camp — a week of happiness and respite from trying times. She began serving on the CAMP KEMO Advisory Council in 2006 and served as its vice chair in 2013 and chair in 2014 and 2015. She was a gifted advocate and fundraiser. She broadened her passion last year when she spoke and helped organize an event at the statehouse in September that recognized the small amount of federal funding that is given to childhood cancer research. Stacy’s commitment to the success of CAMP KEMO is still felt by all who are involved in the program.
About Duckprints Award recipients Paul and Sarah Towns
There’s nothing quite like Christmas lights to bring joy to a child. And Paul Towns, along with his wife, Sarah, know how to make that happen in a big way. For several years, Paul and Sarah elaborately decorated and lit their home and yard to bring joy to neighbors and passersby. In 2004, inspired by the death of 11-year-old Cole Sawyer, Paul and Sarah decided to fully dedicate any proceeds from Elgin Lights, a magical show of Christmas lights, to honor the memory of Cole and bring happiness to local children and their families during the holidays. With hundreds of model trains and toys on display and more than 40,000 lights, the Townses have invited families to their property each year to experience hayrides and view the displays. Over the years, the Townses have accepted contributions in a simple milk jug in return for the lights display, and Sarah has contributed proceeds from her Pampered Chef business. Together, they have contributed more than $75,000 to CAMP KEMO programs since 2004. Paul is battling cancer himself and knows firsthand the discomfort of treatment. He loves nothing more than knowing that Elgin Lights helps children enjoy a week at camp “just being kids.”
About Duckprints Award recipient Ronnie Neuberg, M.D.
As a young child, Ronnie Neuberg used to fake being sick so he could go to the doctor. He just loved to go. How ironic that he chose to be a doctor for his profession. Ron was the third of four children and the first to graduate from college. In his fourth year of medical school, he did a pediatric oncology elective at Roswell Park Memorial Institute, a cancer center in Buffalo, New York. His experiences with severely ill children and their families convinced him that he wanted to help during the worst moments of a family’s life, when it really matters. And that’s what he’s been doing ever since.
“Dr. Ron,” as he is known by patients and staff, is currently the Aflac medical director of the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital. Although he is gratified by his work each day, his favorite week of the year is during CAMP KEMO, a weeklong overnight camp for children with cancer and their siblings. For his lifelong work and devotion to patients with cancer and their families, he is being honored with a Duckprints Award.
About DJ Fisher
DJ Fisher is a 17-year-old student at Richland Northeast High School. He was an avid lacrosse player until November 2015, when he was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). At first, medical personnel thought DJ was having a bad reaction to a flu shot, but after further testing, it was determined to be cancer and treatment began immediately.
Although DJ has had to face a lot in his young life, he has a great attitude. He’s developed great relationships with the team at the Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital and is part of the “welcome committee,” greeting new patients and cheering them up. He is a participant in Lasting Impressions, a group for patients ages 13–19 that provides invaluable peer support for young cancer patients who experience physical changes and emotional upheaval as a result of a life-threatening disease and treatment. DJ went to CAMP KEMO, a weeklong summer camp for patients ages 5-18 with cancer and their siblings, for the first time this summer.
When a policyholder gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fast. For six decades, Aflac insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the United States, Aflac is the leading provider of voluntary insurance at the worksite. Through its trailblazing One Day PaySM initiative, Aflac U.S. can receive, process, approve and disburse payment for eligible claims in one business day. In Japan, Aflac is the leading provider of medical and cancer insurance and insures 1 in 4 households. Aflac individual and group insurance products help provide protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. For 10 consecutive years, Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies. In 2016, Fortune magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work For in America for the 18th consecutive year and included Aflac on its list of Most Admired Companies for the 15th time, ranking the company No. 1 in innovation for the insurance, life and health category for the second consecutive year. In 2015, Aflac’s contact centers were recognized by J.D. Power by providing “An Outstanding Customer Service Experience” for the Live Phone Channel. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac and One Day PaySM, visit aflac.com or espanol.aflac.com.
Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.
About Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital
Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital is South Carolina’s first children’s hospital and has more than 150,000 children’s visits each year. It offers more than 30 subspecialties to meet the unique health care needs of children and has central South Carolina’s only Children’s Emergency Center. With more than 350 professionals who work exclusively with children, Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital has a team of highly skilled and trained experts unmatched by any hospital in the Midlands. Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital is the place to go for children’s medical care, because the best care matters.
About Palmetto Health Foundation
Palmetto Health Foundation, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, engages community partners to enhance health care for patients and families served by Palmetto Health. For more information, visit PalmettoHealthFoundation.org.
Pictured: (standing): Virgil Miller, Aflac Group Insurance; Scott Sawyer, representing Stacy Sawyer, honoree; Ronnie Neuberg, M.D., Palmetto Health Children’s Hospital, honoree; Samuel Tenenbaum, Palmetto Health Foundation; Todd Ellis, voice of USC Gamecocks Football; (sitting): Paul and Sarah Towns, honoree; DJ Fisher, Children’s Hospital patient (photo provided)