Pediatric cancer patients get break from treatment in Chicago

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Many of the kids who toured Chicago with Sunshine kids met for the first time Tuesday but they already have something in common - they are all cancer patients.

The Sunshine Kids Foundation,a national, non-profit organization that provides trips to several cities across the U.S., brought the group to Chicago for an all-expense paid trip as a way to take their minds off their illnesses.

"Get them out of their treatment and out of mode that they're in of pills and medications and appointments and doctor's visits, and into a fun environment where they can make friends and have once-in-a-lifetime opportunities," said Sunshine Kids volunteer Aaron Mansfield.

On Wednesday, the kids kicked off their second day in the city with a Seadog cruise around Navy Pier.

For Elliott Kappers, 11, the trip was a great way to end the summer after being diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in the spring.

"This is my first time in Chicago. As a matter of fact, this is the first time I've ever been on a plane," Elliott said.

Elliott and several of the other kids are from Charlotte, North Carolina and are also getting a break from some of the residual effects of Tropical Storm Florence.

Natalia Gil-Sanchez, 14, said this is a chance to spend time with other people who know what she's going through, and that sometimes it's tough talking with her family and friends.

"They don't want to talk about how they feel, so if you know people who have been through that, you can talk to them," Natalia said.

Jefferson Park resident Jessica Colucci, 16, was put in touch with Sunshine Kids a few years ago, when she was diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Jessica said she is enjoying being a tourist in her own city.

"You're faced with this big thing to where the little things don't matter really, and you have to adjust and become a new normal," Jessica said.

The kids have a few more days of sight-seeing and bonding before they go home. They said they all expect to keep in touch and remain friends.
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