On May 28, members from the Creating for Care program, who are all students of Deerwood Elementary School, delivered their rendition of “Stuart,” a children’s novel written by E.B. White in 1945. This performance, as noted by the program’s founder and leader, Robin Robinson of Kingwood, would not have been possible without the generous amenities offered by Justin Vincent and the Atascocita High School Theater Department. Following the flooding of Kingwood High School by Hurricane Harvey, the usual event holder of Creating for Care’s plays, Vincent and his team made the arrangements and allotted the provisions that allowed this event to take place.
Coupled with the support of the theater department, the students’ creativity, enthusiasm, dedication and hard work helped to raise over $16,200 in funds that were dedicated to The Periwinkle Foundation. Such a remarkable feat accomplished by elementary-school children – talent and leadership that is often overlooked by those older than them – has very humble origins.
Creating for Care was founded by Robinson six years ago as a service-learning project which would serve to honor the legacy of her late son Ethan who passed at the age of 3 due to a terminal illness. It was during this time that Robinson discovered The Periwinkle Foundation, a special program which serves to restore and replenish the emotional and social well-being of pediatric cancer patients as well as their families during the most challenging and difficult time of their lives. She began with only 22 two students and was able to raise over $6,500 in the first year of the group’s operation, a number which both amazed and motivated her to accomplish more.
Likewise, The Periwinkle Foundation has humble origins. The foundation started as a singular summer camp for children suffering from a variety of cancers in 1983. A group of approximately 50 children were taken to a camp near Austin, and when they returned back into the care of their nurses and practitioners, they were visibly re-energized and motivated, ready for the battle that would lie ahead. From a single camp, the foundation has now evolved into a spectacular organization which provides a myriad of free activities and events for young cancer patients and their families, touching the lives of over 14,000 children each year.
The organization is a now an important partner of Texas Children’s Hospital, and the care which it provides goes far from unnoticed. Several doctors from the Texas Children’s Cancer Center, such as Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer and Dr. David Poplack, firmly believe that without The Periwinkle Foundation, there would not be nearly as many cancer survivors at Texas Children’s Hospital as there are now.
They note that “You cannot just cure the cancer, you have to cure the whole child.” This holistic approach towards patient care underlines the foundation’s mission to heal and nurture the mental, emotional, psychological and social aspects of every patient the program encounters.
The extent of The Periwinkle Foundation’s outreach was one of the primary factors that inspired Robinson to align and partner with them; not only does the foundation provide camps and unique activities for the patients of pediatric cancer, it provides the same opportunities for the siblings and families of the patients. The foundation splits its relief efforts into three categories: camps, Periwinkle Arts in Medicine, and the Survivor Program. From camps such as Camp YOLO, which unites adolescents suffering from a variety of illnesses such as HIV, cardiac disorders and renal cancers and Family Camp, which gives families the tools to become stronger survivors, to the Splendid Review, which aims to relieve patients of stress and help them in the area of self-expression, The Periwinkle Foundation’s outreach is nothing less than extensive, inclusive and benevolent.
Doug Suggitt, executive director for The Periwinkle Foundation, reaffirms the mission of the organization: “Wherever there is a Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center, we want to ensure that patients and their families have the adequate care that they need.”
The renowned accomplishments of The Periwinkle Foundation give community leaders such as Robinson the inspiration to continue their selfless work and expand their programs. Currently, Creating for Care hosts several events and participates in several service projects annually, such as silent auctions, toy drives for hospitals, blankets for the homeless, art exhibits and annual plays which help not only to raise funds to fight cancer, but to also cultivate a sense of responsibility and passion for the student volunteers that make these events possible. Her vision inspired the name of the organization; Robinson wants her students to create, but she also wants them to have a drive behind their work so that the projects and work they create will have both a meaning and a purpose.
Robinson said that during a performance, “I sit back in the audience and watch the show.”
She entrusts her students to read and analyze a classical novel and formulate their own play, which they dedicate every Saturday to rehearsing. This process requires dedication and commitment that is often unseen and unexpected from children at such an early age. The ultimate goal of this process, according to her, is for her students to become “human beings that go out and take their role in the world and make a positive influence with their lives.”
Donations are also accepted by The Periwinkle Foundation; those interested can visit periwinklefoundation.org or call 713-807-0191. Additionally, the foundation provides countless opportunities to volunteer. Currently, over 300 people volunteer for the foundation, racking up over 35,000 hours of service annually. If interested in volunteering, visit the foundation’s website and fill out a volunteer interest form.