July 22, 2010

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Children’s races at Boathouse Row to benefit pediatric hospice

George Hedges Pappert, who died before his 5th birthday from a brain tumor, is the namesake of a fund for pediatric hospice care.

For the first time, the Philadelphia SheROX Triathlon is hosting a KidsROX Fun Run at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, July 31, on Waterworks Drive at Boathouse Row. KidsROX Fun Run will benefit The George Fund, named in honor of George Hedges Pappert, who died eight days before this fifth birthday, 18 months after he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor.

The KidsROX Fun Run, open to children ages 1 to 14, is designed to promote the importance of exercise through running. Mostly, the goal is to teach kids the importance of helping other kids.

“We want young participants to understand the thrill of running in a race and also give them an opportunity to help kids who are suffering from terminal illness,” said Barb Mc Keever, SheROX series director.

When a child dies, the surviving family members often dedicate time and energy working toward a cure for that which took their child’s life. After Jerry and Ellen Pappert lost their son, they chose to honor him in a different way.

“Unfortunately, there are a lot of kids out there who will die from a disease. We want other families to get the same kind of support that we received,” Ellen said.

In the final months of George’s life, he was home with his parents and older sister, all of whom received regular assistance from Keystone Hospice. Comforted by the warmth of their home, George and his family were able to be together when they needed each other the most.

The George Fund at Keystone Hospice in Wyndmoor is dedicated exclusively to pediatric hospice care and is used for medical equipment, prescription medications, pediatric nursing care, and therapeutic counseling and bereavement services. Fund contributions often pay for art, movement and music therapy and other services that insurance companies will not always reimburse.

“Angels – that’s what we call the people from Keystone Hospice,” Ellen said. “There are so many things that they take care of so you don’t have to worry about them – the nurse came right to our house, meds were delivered to our door any time of day or night and the therapists were excellent.”

She mentioned the movement therapy her son received from a Keystone therapist, vividly recalling the hysterical laughter coming from George’s room as the therapist engaged him in fun exercises despite his coordination challenges.

There are hundreds of stories relaying the profound impact that Keystone’s pediatric services have on patients and families. During life’s most horrific experience, Keystone doctors, nurses, chaplains, rabbis, therapists, bereavement counselors, staff and volunteers bring comfort, support and peace to the lives of their patients and their families.

The KidsROX Fun Run is the first major, citywide event directly benefiting the George Fund at Keystone Hospice, but the fund has been receiving contributions from friends and strangers alike. Since its inception in January 2008, more than $330,000 has been raised.

One family friend held a 40th birthday party and, in lieu of presents, asked for contributions to the fund. George’s cousin followed suit and donated all cash gifts from her Sweet Sixteen party to the fund as well.

The Women’s Club of Springfield Township has been fundraising for Keystone Hospice for years. Last fall, it chose to dedicate all proceeds from its annual Beef and Beer to the George Fund. The efforts of the Women’s Club had a profound impact on Ellen Pappert.

“When I heard all that those women were doing to raise funds in my son’s name, I was just so inspired,” she said.

Their actions motivated Ellen and Jerry to identify the George Fund as the beneficiary of the KidsROX Fun Run. As soon as the Women’s Club learned this, members immediately set up a Facebook page to generate interest and registration.

The Papperts said they were excited that the first major fundraiser for the George Fund is an event in which children can fully participate. The KidsROX Fun Run has varying distances based on the age of the participants.

All runs will start at Lloyd Hall, 1 Boathouse Row, and runners will follow paths along Waterworks Drive and the Schuylkill River Trail. All running paths are closed to traffic and completely contained within the park.

Distances for the KidsROX Fun Run vary depending on the age of the participants. The race for children aged 1-3 years is 50 yards and begins at 10:30 a.m. The 4-5-year-old race will be 100 yards and begin at 10:40 a.m. The race for 6 and 7-year-olds will be 200 yards, starting at 10:50 a.m., and the race for children between the ages of 8 and 14 years will be one mile and begin at 11 a.m. A parent or legal guardian and the participant must be present during athlete check-in.

Runners will receive a medal when they cross the large blow-up finish line set up for the SheROX sprint triathlon scheduled for the following day. SheROX Triathlon Series is a fast growing all-women’s sprint distance triathlon series. The race includes a half-mile swim, a 15.5-mile bike race and a 3.1-mile run, which attracted more than 2,000 participants last year. SheROX Triathlons are being held in five other cities this summer and in November, SheROX travels to Bermuda.

The KidsROX Fun Run is part of the SheROX Philadelphia Triathlon Expo, which is open to the public. In a large tented area outside Lloyd Hall, a carnival-like atmosphere complete with face painting, vendors, speakers, music and food will keep the whole family entertained.

Last year, the George Fund purchased a pulse oximeter machine and related equipment, allowing a five-year old boy, an 18-month-old girl and a six-year- old boy to spend their last days at home. Monies also provided 242 creative arts therapy visits to 11 pediatric patients.

These music, art or movement sessions offer opportunities for play, to express feelings and reduce stress. Such nonverbal means of expression are critical in helping children discover healthy outlets for expressing difficult emotions, providing opportunities for family members to create special memories and giving a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

The George Fund enables children who have a terminal illness to never have to return to the hospital, which helps families maximize their time together.

“Some parents think they are giving up when their child goes on hospice but that’s not the case at all,” Ellen Pappert said. “People at Keystone Hospice give families opportunities to bond, and they teach families how to be families again.”

KidsROX is limited to 200 runners. Register online by visiting Onsite registration and packet pick-up will be held on the day of the race (July 31) from 9 to 10 a.m. at Lloyd Hall. For more information on the George Fund, visit keystoneca-


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