The Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation

Providing comfort to children undergoing cancer treatments

When Colleen Kisel’s seven-year-old son, Martin, was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia it marked the beginning of three years of extremely painful procedures and difficult chemotherapy treatments. Over the course of his treatments Kisel discovered that her young son had an easier time and was able to be comforted afterwards when he was given a toy, something to distract him from the pain. It was fairly quick that she decided other children undergoing cancer treatments would likely benefit from receiving the same simple comfort that had made such a difference to her young son. 

In 1996, as Martin was nearing the end of his own treatment, Kisel received her first major donation and the Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation was officially born. Their first treasure chest was installed in the pediatric oncology center in Oak Lawn, Illinois and was filled with used library books.

Since then the foundation has been steadily growing, adding their treasure chests and boxes full of gifts and toys to pediatric oncology centers around the country to comfort teens and kids 18 and under as they undergo a wide variety of treatments and tests. Kisel serves as CEO of the non-profit and Martin, all grown up now, still helps out and does fundraising to benefit the organization and young kids who are enduring many of the same struggles he faced as a child. For the last two years Martin has climbed some of Colorado’s most famous 14ers to raise funds for the non-profit. 

Each year, with the help of donors large and small they add more clinics to the list of those that benefit from their presence. Most recently they added their 62nd location. What started as one location in Oak Lawn is now spread across 20 states and brings comfort to nearly fifteen thousand young people every month. With each clinic added they get closer to their goal of having a treasure chest in every children's cancer treatment center in the United States.

The following short piece, provided by the Pediatric Oncology Treasure Chest Foundation provides a glimpse into how their organization benefits children undergoing cancer treatments across the country.

Despite their loyalty and dedication to our worthy cause, many of our donors have never personally experienced the positive impact a visit to the Treasure Chest can have for a childhood cancer patient. Here’s a brief glimpse at a typical scene as it unfolded at a Chicago area treatment center.  

Stepping into a Children’s Cancer Treatment Center, one finds myriad emotions from the young patients there. While one young girl sits quietly playing with her doll, elsewhere in the room a teenager curls up on a recliner, looking exhausted. Cancer shouldn’t happen to kids. It shouldn’t happen to anyone, but it does. These children are fighting to win a war against a horrible disease that wasn’t supposed to invade their young bodies. 

Nine-year-old Nyiah Young of Frankfort is a fixture in the Clinic Room at Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL. She has been coming here since the age of three, when she suffered a stroke. “The Barbie toys are my favorite,” said Nyiah. As she prepares for her next treatment, her father, Carlos, watches her play with her new doll. “Getting something like this makes the day go faster,” said Carlos. 

Trevor is being treated at the Keyser Clinic located in Advocate Hope Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn, IL. “It can be a painful day for Trevor but at the end he has something comforting and positive to look forward to,” says Trevor’s mother, Mary. “He has had many challenging days but it always seems to brighten him up a bit when he takes home something to play with. 

The Treasure Chest Foundation wants to make sure children like Nyiah and Trevor are given comfort with a toy following their painful treatments. As children like these prepare for their next cancer treatment, they are able to smile thanks to items from the Treasure Chest.  

The Treasure Chest Foundation helps put smiles on the faces of toddlers and teens. There are still thousands of children and teens in our nation who are battling cancer, but not currently benefiting from our services. We would love to see the day when every little one going for a cancer treatment is able to visit a Treasure Chest and select a toy following a painful procedure. 

If you’d like to donate or get involved with the foundation as a volunteer or donor you can find more information on their website at treasurechest.org

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