09:13 AM

Aflac supplies toy ducks to pediatric cancer patients

Montana Children’s, Kalispell Regional Healthcare’s pediatric facility, has partnered with Aflac, the leader in supplemental insurance sales at U.S. worksites and a committed corporate ally to families facing childhood cancer, to provide pediatric cancer patients with a sense of comfort during their treatment. As a part of the Aflac Childhood Cancer Campaign®, the company is supplying cancer patients at Montana Children's with My Special Aflac Ducks®, robotic ducks that use medical play, lifelike movement, and emotions to engage and help comfort kids during their cancer care.

On average, a child’s cancer treatment takes over 1,000 days. During that time, patients are subject to strenuous challenges that can leave them both physically and emotionally drained. The purpose of My Special Aflac Duck is to help children navigate through those challenges in a way that is both recreational and therapeutic. Named one of Time’s Best Inventions of 2018 and backed by years of research, the ducks have multiple features that help patients do just that:

Emotional Expression: Equipped with seven feeling cards, patients can scan a card to have the duck act out an emotion. This is especially beneficial at an early age when children are still in the developmental phase of emotional identification.

Medical Play: Children don’t want to feel as if they are the only ones going through cancer. The My Special Aflac Ducks feature a port-a-cath accessory so that kids can imagine administering chemotherapy to their duck. A no-cost companion app allows patients to bathe, feed, and give medicine to the duck, just as they are receiving the same care. This allows the patients a sense of control during a situation in which they have none.

Calming Exercises: The duck produces a naturalistic heartbeat and breathing, which caregivers can incorporate into calming routines.

Companionship: Aside from being a companion that patients can name, care for, and love, the duck has the ability to cuddle, laugh, play music, quack, and communicate with other kids’ ducks.

“Delivering My Special Aflac Duck to the more than 15,000 children with cancer each year across America has been our mission since this program’s inception, and we are grateful for our partners at Montana Children’s for bringing us one step closer to reaching that goal,” Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos said. “This is a major investment by Aflac to provide a coping mechanism for children with cancer, and the entire Aflac family, our employees and independent agents are beyond pleased to provide these courageous children and their families some happiness when they need it most.”

The partnership, which began shortly after Montana Children’s opened in July, is now seeing tremendous success. Amy Rohyans Stewart, child life coordinator at Montana Children’s, has noticed drastic improvements in many of her patients when paired up with a duck. “The kids have been very receptive to the ducks and the different activities they get to do with them,” Stewart says. “Three year old Everly was recently diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia and was one of the first patients at Montana Children’s to be paired with a duck. She was having a rough go of things while she was here enduring 30 days of high dose steroid treatments. When I brought her a My Special Aflac Duck, which she named 'Duckie,' I saw her smile for the first time in a month. It was amazing!”

My Special Aflac Duck is just one element of Aflac’s $135+ million philanthropic commitment to children with cancer across the country. The ducks are available to pediatric cancer patients and are free of charge to their families. “Montana Children’s is proud to be partnering with Aflac on this initiative,” says Carly Rickard, the facility’s chief development officer. “Providing support and comfort to our patients and their families is the heart of Montana Children’s and My Special Aflac Duck is helping us to accomplish just that.”

For more information about the Aflac Childhood Cancer Campaign, visit https://aflacchildhoodcancer.org/.


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