Creating for a Cause
Each year, thousands of teenagers are diagnosed with pediatric cancer in the United States. While they are technically still recognized as children, they have very different needs and experiences than children below the age of 13. At The University of Texas MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital, it is a priority to meet the needs of teens and have their cancer care tailored to their age, size and development.
Mariana Farach and her mother, Cindy Farach-Carson, Ph.D., vice provost of Translational Bioscience and Scientific Director of the BioScience Research Collaborative, founded MadJet7 organic candy company to not only make delicious candy but also to raise funds and awareness for important causes.
“My family’s background is cancer research, and it has always been a dream of mine to combine science and art for a cause,” Farach said. “After being a candy buyer for a large retailer, I partnered with my mom to create MadJet7 to support artists and scientific research.”
In addition to donating proceeds of MadJet7 candy to pediatric cancer research, Farach also organized an event with her childhood friends Gonzo247 and his wife, Caroline, to teach MD Anderson teenage patients about graffiti and street art through a partnership with Triumph Over Kid Cancer and the Child Life Program at MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital.
This past weekend, MD Anderson patients were brought to the Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas to not only see Gonzo247’s work, but to create their own as well.
“I always love the opportunity to inspire the younger generation, and having the opportunity to work with this particular group is such an honor for me,” Gonzo said. “Hospitals are a sterile environment and you are usually not there by choice. I want to give these kids a chance to take their minds off of what they are going through and put them in a cool environment and make their day better, even if it is just for a moment.”
When a child is diagnosed with cancer, the entire family is impacted in that moment—their lives are changed. MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital recognizes the huge toll that this takes on a patient and aims to make their time in the hospital fun even though they are going through so much. Teenagers in particular fall into an interesting group because of their age and interests.
“Teenagers think differently and act differently than young children, and because of that they have different needs and wants,” said Quinn Franklin, manager of Child Life at MD Anderson. During the adolescent years, friends become increasingly important. Through experiences like this, the teens are able to spend time with their siblings and friends in a way that is fun yet safe and supportive of their potential medical needs.
After receiving a few lessons from Gonzo on the art and philosophy behind graffiti and street art, patients were able to create their own street art on vintage records.
“It’s really fun to get out of the hospital with people who are going through the same treatment as I am,” said Mia, a patient at MD Anderson. “I enjoy art, and learning about graffiti has been really cool.”