May Newsletter

Hi Friends,

I wanted to take a moment and share a story about Gabe that made my heart overflow with pride at the amazing young man he is becoming. 

A few weeks ago Gabe announced to me that he had decided to run for “Coming Home” King. It is the basketball equivalent of Homecoming at his school and serves as an all-school fundraiser for the local chapter of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. He was absolutely determined to help his school raise enough to provide a wish for a child. 
In previous years, his school was able to raise, at most, a little over $2,000. In the span of only two weeks, Gabe managed to personally raise $2,700! His outstanding efforts even inspired the other 8 contenders to try and match the amount he raised. 

Gabe was crowned Coming Home King 2018, and his school collectively raised more than $8,000, allowing a local pediatric cancer survivor to live out her dream of going on a Disney cruise.

Even when Gabe is not focused on raising funds for Chemo Duck, he is always looking for ways to give back. I am immensely proud of the young man he is becoming and I am sure you will all join me in congratulating him for his incredible hard work! 





Lu Sipos
Executive Director
Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program


Meet Madeline and her fluffy friend, Scooter

In just three months, Madeline will be three years old. And just one month ago, only a few days after Christmas, she was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.

No family can ever truly prepare for hearing that their child has cancer. All they can do is look ahead to what’s next and what can be done to help. For Madeline and her family, that meant starting cancer treatment at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City. 

Shortly after beginning treatment, one of the nurses at the hospital introduced Madeline to a cuddly companion who would quickly become a member of the family.

He was a Chemo Duck, given to Madeline to help explain the cancer treatment process in a way that would make sense to an almost-three-year-old child. Madeline took to him immediately and pretty soon he had a name: Scooter.

Madeline has enjoyed getting to spend time with Scooter all day and all night. And she can relate so well to his port and tube because she has a port and tube, too!

More than just the duck itself, Madeline has enjoyed getting stamps in her Chemo Duck passport every time she makes a trip to the clinic.

When she’s not receiving treatment or cuddling with Scooter, Madeline enjoys painting her nails with her mom, playing with her Peppa Pig people and her dollhouse, or watching Sheriff Callie.

“Chemo Duck has made this process a little easier for her to understand,” explained Madeline’s mom, Emily. “She loves him!”

We think it’s safe to say that Scooter is a welcomed addition to the family — and he will proudly provide comfort to Madeline and her family for as long as he is needed.

Join Rob’s Memorial Flock

For those who may not have heard, Gabe and I lost his father, my husband, Rob, earlier this year to cancer.

Rob was a true pillar in our family and a passionate supporter of Chemo Duck — he was our loudest cheerleader and our greatest partner in this journey.

To honor his memory, we have created “Rob’s Memorial Flock,” a fundraiser that will demonstrate just how many people’s lives Rob has impacted and will continue to impact, as his legacy lives on.

Our hope is that by joining this special initiative to get more Chemo Ducks in the arms of some very special kids, you will also help us make Rob’s memory synonymous with the love and hope that our organization is so passionate about sharing.

We invite you to be a part of Rob’s Memorial Flock and help us raise $3,000 — the equivalent of 100 ducks — in honor of our beloved husband, father and friend. Even a small donation will still make a huge difference in helping us reach our goal.

We appreciate your support and know Rob would be proud to have each and every one of you as a member of his memorial flock!

Join the Flock

Meet Alexis and her friend Pato Lucas

On January 5, 2017, Alexis was diagnosed with leukemia. She was seven years old.

Despite her diagnosis, Alexis found hope and comfort in the Chemo Duck she was given by her doctor at the Children’s Blood and Cancer Center in Austin, Texas.

“It was the only thing that would make me smile, even when I was sad,” said Alexis, who celebrated her 8th birthday in May. “It reminded me of a pet duck my grandmother used to have. I actually named him Pato Lucas like my grandmother’s duck.”

Now, wherever Alexis goes, Pato Lucas goes, too. Alexis uses Pato Lucas to explain her situation to other kids and adults. Having Pato Lucas nearby has helped show her that she’s not alone in her journey.

“I get sad when I forget to bring him to my appointments because I know if he doesn’t go he won’t get better soon,” Alexis explained. “I love him with all my heart, he is just like me in every single way. He doesn’t have hair like me and he has a port, too. It makes me so happy just to see him and cuddle with him.”

Just as Pato Lucas has been a comfort to Alexis, she has been a comforting friend to others in her situation.

“She was a great help with another girl who was diagnosed after her,” said Alexis’ mom, Norma. “She helped her with her fear of accessing her port. She showed her a couple of tricks for her not to be afraid when getting it done. They are pretty good friends now and the girl is no longer afraid.”

Alexis also loves to help out at the clinic by talking to other kids about her experience and the way she sometimes feels about what is happening.

“It helps her and them at the same time,” explained Norma. “She has grown so much after this and her way of seeing things has changed, too.”

When Alexis isn’t spending her days spreading hope and joy to others at the clinic, she can be found spending time with her parents, her brother Luis and her step-siblings Alex, Chris, Kristy and Frankie.

Everyone with Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is so thankful that Alexis was willing to share her story. Her sweet, caring spirit is a gift to us all!

Zack Finds Lifelong Friend in Chemo Duck

You may recognize Zack as the boy behind one of our adorable Chemo Duck cartoon characters. This is his story…zack

Three days before his third birthday, Zack’s parents received the worst news a parent can hear: “your son has cancer.”

Not long after his diagnosis, their local hospital in the UK, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, gave Zack the hope and comfort he needed — his very own Chemo Duck.

“Zack was very excited about his duck,” said Zack’s father, Ian. “He used his duck two-fold. The doctors would use the duck to show him what they were going to do and then he would do it to the duck as well — many times over!”

They also added accessories to the Chemo Duck as needed. For example, the duck still has a cut-down NG tube from when Zack had to have one for a few months. They also gave Zack a toy medical kit, which he loved to use on the duck.

After three years, Zack finished his last chemo treatment in March 2011. Although he will continue to have yearly check-ups indefinitely, he is now considered a full-fledge cancer survivor!

When asked about what he would share with other parents who are going through the journey of cancer with their child, Ian’s father said, “Time does pass, things do get better! Zack was under treatment for almost three years, but it has been almost six years since his treatment stopped. It is both the longest and fastest time I have ever experienced.”

Ian continues, “Never give up, never doubt. Cry you heart out — let it all go! Accept all the help you are offered. You can always turn it down later, but if you say no first, they may not offer again. Don’t be too proud. And lastly, while this can be an incredibly challenging experience for you and your child, it’s important to do whatever it takes to minimize the bad times and maximize the good ones!”

Today, Zack is still dealing with a wide range of issues, including Klinefelter Syndrome, brain damage from chemo (which is extremely rare), Autism, Global Developmental Delays and Epilepsy.

And while he is emotionally and educationally behind in comparison to his physical age, overall he is a very genuinely happy, warm and loving boy! He loves anything fire, fire engine or fireman-related and is in the Special Needs arm of the Fire Cadets. He also loves anything transport-related and can often be found playing pretend, driving a taxi, fire engine, bus or plane in his mind — and when they “break down,” he is quick to step in and fix them.

“He is becoming ever more aware that he is different,” said Ian. “But he battles on regardless. He will always provide a smile when asked and will share almost anything with you if you’ll be his friend. Anyone who spends even a little time with him say they love him — he is just one of those lovable type of people!”

Everyone with the Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is thrilled to have Zack as a member of our Chemo Duck gang. His perseverance and positive-attitude is an inspiration to us all!

Gift Giving Guide for Kids with Cancer

When a child is diagnosed with cancer everyone feels helpless. Despite our best efforts, it is difficult to know what to do for the family. If you’re looking to help the family by offering your time and talents, you should take a peek at our Parent-to-Parent Guide and download the “Support Plan” section for ways to help out and great planning tools to assist you with becoming a part of the families’ support team.

If you do not live close to the family but would like to offer a gift to show your support, or are simply looking for a way to show the child or family you care at this holiday time, here are five great gift ideas for children and families in cancer treatment:

The Comfort of Home

When children spend a great deal of time hospitalized, they usually like to personalize their hospital room as much as possible. Taking blankets and pillows from home can be a great way to make the room feel cozy and functional at the same time.

    • Bed Rest Pillows
      Bed rest pillows allow the child to rest in a sitting position on something comfortable. For examples of fun bed rest pillows, visit Bed Bath and Beyond and check out a variety of colors, textures and a even some college football themes!
    • A Medical Kit
      Putting together a medical kit that contains one or more of the following useful items is a great way to show your support for a child or family. Ideas for valuable items include:
    • Hand sanitizer
      Try finding a brand that is organic or moisturizes since sanitizer can be rough on hands when used as much as a family living with cancer uses it.
    • The gift of pain free shots with Buzzy®
      Buzzy® is simply a bee-shaped ice pack that vibrates and can be used for natural pain relief. It can be used on any sharp pain, itches and burns. The vibration and cold desensitize the body’s nerves and dull or eliminate pain.
    • Sippy Sure Medicine Dispensing Sippy Cup
      Any way we can help kids take oral medication is a benefit. This sippy cup has a hidden medicine dispenser that snaps into place to make the task so much easier. Along the same lines Ava the elephant makes medicine fun! 
    • A GOOD Thermometer
      Accurate temperature readings are very important to families living with childhood cancer. Ear thermometers are fast and non-invasive.
    • Picc Line Covers
      It’s a good idea to keep peripheral IV lines covered so kids don’t pull at them. Etsy has some fun and funky covers so kids of all ages can cover Picc Lines with pride.
  • G Tube Protectors
    Not all children in cancer treatment need NG or G tubes, but if they do, here are a couple of fantastic products:

The Gift of Good Food

Consider offering your friends the gift of a good meal while they are experiencing a hospital stay. Restaurant gift certificates make this possible even when you’re not able to deliver it yourself. You can research restaurants that are located close to the hospital and provide delivery service. Be sure to include a menu for the restaurant (usually available to print on the restaurant’s website) and cash for to tip the driver.

The Gift of Preparation

Car totes are a useful gift for families who may experience unplanned hospital visits. They can be packed with snacks, blankets and hospital stay essentials and left by the door or in the car. You can provide this gift empty or filled with useful home away from home items.

The Gift of Knowledge and Education

Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program is devoted to educating families about childhood cancer. When we know what to expect we are better prepared and less anxious.

Besides our famous Chemo Duck, we offer many products free of charge to assist families during this time.

Feel free to print out any of our useful tools such as our:

Duck Derby is Back

Mark your calendars — the 4th Annual Duck Derby is back for another day of fundraising fun! 

Hosted at the Nashville Shores, the proceeds from this event will be used to help place more Chemo Ducks into the hands of young cancer patients in need.

A prize of $1,000 will be awarded to the donor whose rubber duck is the first to cross the finish line. Additionally, 24 Chemo Ducks will be donated to the hospital of the Duck Derby winner’s choice.

Along with the main Duck Derby event, there will also be family-friendly games and activities throughout the day, including a scavenger hunt and duck face contest. Door prizes will also be available.

August 6, 2016

Nashville Shores
4001 Bell Road
Hermitage, TN 37076

Doors open at 10 a.m.
Duck race at 3 p.m.

Discount tickets are available starting June 29 from – visit main website, in main search bar on home page, type in promo code: duck. For every ticket sold, $3 will go back to Gabe’s Chemo Duck Program. 

Purchase a Duck:
For only $5 you can purchase a duck and enter the derby for your chance to win a prize of $1,000.

Want to create a team?
This year we are encouraging folks to create a Duck Derby team! The more ducks, the greater your chance at winning the grand prize…$1,000! This is a great opportunity for groups and businesses. Set up your team today.

Gabe Goes to England

It has been an incredible month for all of us at Chemo Duck.

Gabe’s mom, Lu, is from Yorkshire in Great Britain and this past month, Gabe was able to fly overseas to meet his English relatives. But this wasn’t just a normal visit —Gabe was going overseas to see some very important people and places that remain near and dear to Chemo Duck and its mission.

The first stop on their trip? A visit with the Phillips family. Lu and Andrew Phillips have been working together closely for years. Andrew’s son, Harry, just finished his own cancer treatment journey and Andrew had originally reached out to Chemo Duck for support.

What began as a simple request for help has transformed into a lifelong friendship. Not only that, Andrew was so impressed with Chemo Duck that he decided to help store and share Chemo Ducks within the U.K.

This venture became so popular that Andrew decided to created the ‘Give a Duck U.K.’ program, which helps raise funds to deliver Chemo Ducks to children in the U.K.

After a quick catch-up session, Gabe and the Phillips family then made their way over to Leeds Children’s Hospital, which has embraced Chemo Duck as a teaching tool. This was the first hospital in the U.K. to introduce Chemo Ducks onto the wards and these were generously funded and imported by Candlelighters, Yorkshire’s children’s cancer charity.

Candlelighters have worked with the Phillips family for several years. Originally the family stepped in to simplify the shipping process. This was promptly followed up with a huge fundraising campaign to fund the Candlelighters program, which has raised almost £100,000 so far for the charity.

Gabe visited the Clarendon Wing and met with children who are currently undergoing cancer treatment and whose lives have been touched by Chemo Duck. For example, the Leeds team has even introduced specially made outfits for their Chemo Ducks, which are handmade by a volunteer group at the Rivers Meet Café, and children can choose a new one every month.

The hospital also happened to be where Gabe’s Gran received her cancer treatment, and his aunt is currently being treated, so this visit was very meaningful on several levels!

Seeing how readily hospitals in the U.K. are embracing Chemo Duck has inspired Gabe, Lu and the rest of the Chemo Duck team to bring some of these ideas back to hospitals in the U.S.

Watch an overview of Gabe’s trip to the U.K.

Chemo Duck Shares More Love

There was so much love for some of our local nonprofits that it’s spilling over into another newsletter!

Gilda’s Club Nashville and Dreams and Wishes of Tennessee have been longtime friends of Chemo Duck and we want to share the great things each group is doing for children with cancer.

Gilda’s Club is an affiliate of the Cancer Support Community and is dedicated to providing support, education and hope to all people impacted by cancer. All of the programs offered at the clubhouse are free of charge including support groups, healthy lifestyle workshops, mind-body classes, social activities, educational lectures and community resource information.

Felice Apolinsky, LCSW, program director at the Nashville Gilda’s, said the mission of Chemo Duck and Gilda’s is very closely aligned.

“Chemo Duck is a remarkable educational and emotionally supportive tool,” said Apolinsky. “Not just for the child, but for the parents of the diagnosed child, for their siblings and their friends. It’s a conversation starter, a non-threatening way to talk about difficult topics…improve communication and help make something that is really terrifying – cancer – less terrifying.

“We too focus on education, support, empowerment and building community. Knowledge creates empowerment, and empowerment creates confidence and comfort.”

The Sipos’ have been participants at Gilda’s Club Nashville for more than a decade.

“I owe a great deal to Gilda’s Club both professionally and personally,” said Sipos. “Chemo Duck has partnered with Gilda’s Club for many years to provide emotional support for children living with cancer. We could not imagine working with a more amazing organization.”

Chemo Duck has served as an inspiration for the founder of Dreams and Wishes of Tennessee, Tanya Sturm.

The organization grants wishes to individuals between the ages of 5–21 who have relapsed from cancer. It also assists with granting wishes to young adults with life threatening illnesses who have never received a wish from other wish granting groups.

“Over the years I have become close to Lu and Gabe,” said Sturm. “I actually still have one of the original Chemo Ducks in my office. Lu has been an inspiration to me.

“I love Chemo Duck and all that it stands for. It’s a fabulous nonprofit and they have helped so many kids.”

Sipos seconds Sturm’s sentiments for Dreams and Wishes.

“Tonya is a huge inspiration to me,” said Sipos. “She is incredibly dedicated to helping children achieve their wishes, and her love for those children is so tangible! It is truly inspiring to watch Dreams and Wishes grow.”

Cuddly Friend for Cora

In February 2016, after a long battle for a diagnosis, the Cornell family finally got their answer. Their two-year-old daughter, Cora had Metachromatic Leukodystrophy (MLD), a rare and normally fatal disease.

The only established treatment for MLD is a stem cell transplant and clinical trials that will help improve the results of those transplants. As their only viable option, the Cornells enrolled Cora in a phase 1 clinical trial at Duke University.

Shortly after Cora woke up from a pre-transplant surgery, which included the placement of her central line and an appendectomy as well as other procedures, one of Duke’s Child Life Specialists gave Cora a Chemo Duck. Confused and in pain, she grabbed Chemo Duck, snuggling him tightly.

It was in that moment that Cora and Chemo Duck became friends for life.

“We’d never heard of Chemo Duck before,” said Cora’s mother, Sarah. “But we are so grateful that Duke’s Child Life Specialists know how important Chemo Duck can be.”

Cora spent the whole next day happily playing the doctor to Chemo Duck’s patient. She pretended to remove his appendix with scissors and place his chest tube. Since then, Cora’s Chemo Duck doctor play has consistently been the best way she has to make sense of what’s happening to her and to exert some small measure of control over her life.

“Whenever Cora is having a tough time, Chemo Duck helps her through it. Because we’re in a transplant unit, we don’t have a lot of space and cleanliness is of the utmost importance,” said Sarah. “I love that Chemo Duck provides both medical play and a cuddly friend, and stands up well to machine washing. We highly recommend Chemo Duck for every toddler undergoing chemotherapy.”