The sun shining brightly in the sky perfectly matched the spirit of Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton and the children of the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, who all came out to Bridgestone Winter Park for the hospital’s “Shine Bright” event, a letter-writing campaign inspiring people all across Middle Tennessee to write “Words That Shine” as notes of encouragement and positivity for patients and their families.
Hamilton is one of the hospital’s biggest supporters and was just as excited to be at the event as the young skaters. “The Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, it’s really an amazing thing for this city to have; It is a gem in this community,” Hamilton said about the impact of the Children’s Hospital. “It is a shining, beautiful diamond of a hospital that is just looking after children in a world-class way. To me, it is a destination for so much of the philanthropy that is done in this city.”
The event took place at the IntelliCentrics Ice Rink downtown across from Bridgestone Arena as a part of the NHL All Star Week. Patients from the Children’s Hospital laced up their skates alongside the Olympic figure skater and spent the afternoon gliding along the ice under the shining sky.
Like many of the children that Vanderbilt serves, Hamilton knows first-hand how it feels to be a young patient, having spent the first four of his eight years of life in and out of hospitals, making his role as a board member for the facility even more rewarding. “To be able to celebrate their achievements, to support their efforts and to be a member of their family is an honor I do not take lightly,” he said.
In 1977, a teenaged Hamilton lost his mother to cancer, prompting him to become a fundraiser for the cause. “It was the only way I knew how to fight back,” he said of how he dealt with the situation. And 20 years later, almost to the day, Hamilton found himself a cancer survivor, a feat that lead him to create the Scott Hamilton CARES (Cancer Alliance Research Education Survivorship) Foundation, which actively works to help patients with cancer and find a cure for the disease. “Each of those components are extremely important to the whole experience,” he said of the acronym. From researching different treatment options to creating ChemoCare.com, a site that provides information on everything one needs to know about chemotherapy, CARES covers all the bases when it comes to dealing with cancer.
But perhaps the most unique and influential effort Hamilton has made in combatting the disease is that of the 4th Angel Mentoring Program, which features four different types of people that serve a particular purpose throughout the cancer process. The first angel is one’s oncologist, the second being an oncology nurse, friends and family represent the third angel, with the fourth being someone who has survived a similar type of cancer and can act as a guiding force for an individual going through the same experience. “They work not only as a mentor and friend, they also serve as a role model,” Hamilton explained. “That helps the patient by empowering the survivors.” Though there are already 800 mentors, the 4th Angel Mentoring Program is only expanding. As their work continues to grow, Hamilton hopes to “advance the science” in finding less aggressive types of treatment that are more manageable for the patient, such as proton therapy and oncology. “I want to elevate treatment options in the cancer community that don’t harm the patient, but treat the cancer,” he said.
As for what some personal “Words That Shine” are for the accomplished skater? “All the best ones,” Hamilton says with a smile. “Faith, love, hope and cure.”
For a list of letter-writing locations around the region, visit the official Shine Bright website.