UF unveils refurbished pediatric cancer unit

Published: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 7:56 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 7:56 p.m.

What do NASCAR, Tim Tebow and the late college basketball coach Jimmy Valvano's V Foundation have in common?


Unit 42: Pediatric oncology/hematology

* 18-bed inpatient unit of Shands Children's Hospital
* Daily: Will see about 14 pediatric patients.
* Yearly: Will treat some
-- 130 pediatric cancer patients,
-- 30 bone-marrow transplant recipients
-- 14 organ transplant patients
-- 30 rheumatology/immunology patients
-- 50 sickle cell patients.

They're partnering to give back to young patients and their families as they deal with cancer.

On Thursday, officials with Shands Children's Hospital and the University of Florida College of Medicine showed off a newly renovated pediatric oncology/hematology unit funded, in part, by a gift of $500,000 from the NASCAR Foundation and the V Foundation for Cancer Research.

And where does Tim Tebow enter the picture? The former Gator quarterback's "First and 15" Foundation funded the unit's game room, where three huge flat-screen TVs showed NASCAR racing games and EA Sports' NCAA College Football video game.

Coach Valvano's older brother, Nick, was on hand Thursday to represent the V Foundation. When Jimmy was diagnosed in 1993, his brother recalled, the Valvano family knew very little about cancer and its devastating effect on families.

"I got it real fast," Nick Valvano said. "If we don't make this a personal battle, we aren't going to beat cancer."

He and NASCAR board member Todd Wilson said the two organizations approached the project with a single motto: "One team, one cause."

Dr. Bill Slayton said the 18-bed inpatient unit will allow for specialized care for young, immunocompromised patients in a family-friendly, highly organized environment. It also will have the space and specialized staff to safely administer experimental therapy to pediatric patients.

Nick Valvano said the collaborative effort -- and providing funding for a renovation instead of research -- is a first for the V Foundation, which he heads.

He pointed out the efforts of Howard and Laurel Freeman, founders of STOP! Children's Cancer, whose daughter Bonnie was a patient at the unit 29 years ago, and Horst and Luisa Ferrero, whose Ferrero Foundation advocates for improved patient safety and for building a new children's hospital in Gainesville.

"There's a real sense of community here," Valvano said. "I knew it was the right place to do something to improve care for children with cancer."

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