SOMERSET, NJ — It was almost Christmas in April as David Basile and members of his Allstate Insurance office in Kendall Park pulled into the ProCure Proton Therapy Center Wednesday afternoon.
After a few trips from Mr. Basile’s vehicle, a Hugs For Brady Foundation "Brady Buggy" overflowing with new toys for the center’s younger patients sat on the floor waiting to spread joy during what could be a very trying time.
"We treat so many children here," Pediatric Oncologist Dr. Eugen Hug said on behalf of Procure. "We treat the entire family."
Dr. Hug, who has spent many years treating children’s cancer, said that the gift of the buggy to transport the young patients between treatment rooms and the toys to play with while they, or their siblings are waiting, would make a much nicer environment.
The center in Somerset is only several years old, but has already treated more than 1,200 patients, 10 percent of those being children, with the relatively new form of radiation known as proton therapy.
Protons, according to the company’s Director of Marketing and Business Development, Chris Domalewski, are a more precise option compared to traditional photon radiation because the protons do not go through the tumor, but release all of its energy inside the tumor and stop, minimizing damage to surrounding healthy tissue.
Dr. Hug said that the newer treatment is expanding because it is safer and reduces the negative side effects of the radiation, which is desirable especially in younger patients.
"About 30 percent of (child) patients will be able to get proton treatments this year," he said.
"It will be increasing every year."
He said the goal is always to cure the cancer, but the new treatment is a "quantum leap" in negating the bad effects of radiation treatments.
He also said the newer treatment, by and large, takes about the same time as the traditional treatments did, which means the children may need to be sedated during procedures lasting 45 minutes to an hour.
"It’s amazing what children tolerate when they have cancer," he said.
The donation was a collaborative effort between the Hugs For Brady Foundation and the Allstate agency, Mr. Basile said.
Hugs For Brady is a local foundation set up by Mike and Sherrie Wells after dealing with cancer in their son, Brady who died from a rare form of leukemia at just 23 months old.
In the last four years, the foundation has raised more than $1 million to fight childhood cancers.
One of the innovations that battle has developed is the "Brady Buggy," a wagon that can be attached to IV bottles and allow the children to be somewhat mobile during stays in the hospital or other medical facilities.
Each wagon costs about $1,200 each and the foundation has a goal of getting one in every hospital in the country.
Mr. Basile decided to not just get the wagon, but to ask associates and customers to donate toys as well.
He said he was "overwhelmed" by the response as his agency’s appeals, especially on social media, brought a huge response.
"I am honored to work with this amazing foundation and to give back to the community," he said.
Ms. Wells said it is "phenomenal" that Allstate decided to get involved and sponsor a drive like this.
"The agency really stepped up to the plate and really care about children," she said.
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