2006-05-04 / Community

Program Kicks Off To Get Young Cancer Patients"Back In The Game"

"Back in the Game," an innovative strength and fitness program for pediatric cancer patients and survivors, has begun at the Professional Athletic Performance Center in Garden City. The program was conceived by Garden City resident, Peter Menges, whose son, Bobby, was diagnosed with Neuroblastoma three years ago at the age of 5.

"The perception that young kids quickly bounce back during and following chemo is basically true," Mr. Menges explained. "However, these children need a more individualized and formalized approach to help them regain the coordination, balance, strength and confidence that can really be affected by cancer treatments."

"Back in the Game" was developed with the help of a wide range of physical fitness, education and medical professionals. The pilot program, which is designed to run for 12 consecutive weeks with two one-hour sessions per week, started on March 27 with 18 participants. Garden City resident Rob Panariello, co-owner of the Professional Athletic Performance Center, along with his group, constructed the program and is implementing it at the Center's Garden City location.

"This is the first and only program of its kind," said Mr. Panariello. "We're really tailoring the program to the individual needs of each of these children."

Mark Weinblatt, MD, Pediatric Oncology Medical Director at Winthrop-University Hospital's Cancer Center for Kids referred the first group of participants.

"This program provides a wonderful opportunity to help kids-who have been through a very difficult time dealing with cancer treatments and complications-get back on their feet and be able to keep up with their peers," Dr. Weinblatt said. "Their initial enthusiasm and improvement in stamina and coordination have been very encouraging, and we hope to offer this program to all of our patients."

The Foster Foundation, founded by fellow Garden City resident, Stacey Leondis, is providing the initial funding to launch the program. Ms. Leondis, currently a junior at Yale University, had her own lacrosse season sidelined when she was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma at 16.

"Both during and after treatment, chemo and surgery had a marked effect on my fitness and mobility," Ms. Leondis explained. "I really would have benefited from a program tailored to my personal needs. 'Back in the Game' is filling a real need for childhood cancer patients and the Foster Foundation is thrilled to be involved with the program."

About Back in the Game:

"Back in the Game" was developed in conjunction with Winthrop-University Hospital's Cancer for Kids, the Professional Athletic Performance Center, and a collection of experts devoted to helping cancer patients recover fully from the effects of treatment. The specially designed program offers pediatric cancer patients with an opportunity to regain strength, balance, flexibility and confidence. The pilot program, which is designed to run for 12 consecutive weeks with two one-hour sessions per week, started on March 27 with 18 participants. "Back in the Game" coordinators are expanding it to include summer, fall and winter programs. For more information on the program, contact Mr. Menges at mengesfamily@msn.com or call (516) 747-7357. For more information on the Foster Foundation, visit www.fosterfoundation.com.

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