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Emory’s 10th Annual RB Picnic Celebrates Lives of Children Who Have Survived Eye Cancer


The tenth annual RB Picnic, coordinated by Emory Eye Center, will be held from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 14, at WD Thompson Park, off Mason Mill Road in Decatur. This very special event promises a day of fun and celebration for both the young patients and their families who have faced this formerly fatal childhood cancer of the eye called retinoblastoma (RB).


Children who have survived retinoblastoma, and their families, and Emory Eye Center staff

Saturday, June 14 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

WD Thompson Park 1760 Mason Mill Rd. Decatur, Ga.

If you would like to interview a family, contact Joy Bell by May 30 at 404-778-3711.

A tumor of the retina (the back of the eye), RB can be hereditary or non-hereditary. When hereditary, it can affect both eyes and sometimes other organs of the body, whereas the non-hereditary type will usually only affect one eye. RB mainly affects young children and occurs in one in 20,000 live births. In its most serious form, it can metastasize to other parts of the body, resulting in death. In decades past, RB often meant certain death for these children. Today’s statistics are much more heartening. In fact, today more than 95 percent of RB children survive the disease.

“Having cared for the majority of children with retinoblastoma while living in the state of Minnesota over the past 10 years, I developed a very strong appreciation for the team approach of highly skilled experts that care for families affected by this condition,” says Timothy W. Olsen, MD, director of the Emory Eye Center.

Now at Emory, Olsen says, “In the Southeast, Emory offers the best possible care by providing the combined expertise of a highly skilled pediatric retina surgeon, Dr. Baker Hubbard, along with an experienced pediatric oncologist, a radiation oncologist, a genetics counselor and a host of consultants.

“Using these approaches, the survival rate for retinoblastoma now exceeds 90 percent, and we are also saving more vision than ever before,” says Olsen. On June 14, 45 to 60 young patients, typically ranging in ages from infancy up to 12 years, and their families come from all over Georgia and the Southeast - and sometimes as far away as Europe. The highly anticipated day of celebration includes clowns, food, a pony rides and Happy Tails pet- assisted therapy.

“I really look forward to this event,” says Hubbard, Emory Eye Center’s pediatric retinal specialist who treats these children. “It is great fun to have all the children and families together in a non-medical atmosphere where we can all relax and enjoy the activities together.”

Dr. Hubbard has worked with RB children and their families since coming to Emory Eye Center in 2000.

“This event is so special because it provides those parents who may have a child with newly diagnosed retinoblastoma the realization that this disease can have an outcome that is extremely positive,” says Rhonda Waldron, diagnostic echographer at the Emory Eye Center, who organizes the RB Picnic each year. “Even in the event that their child has to have an enucleation (removal of the eye), by coming to RB Kids Day these parents have the opportunity to meet other families and share their experiences.

“They get to witness for themselves how great the other children look cosmetically with their prosthetic eyes, and even more importantly, see that these are normal, happy, playful children. By meeting the more experienced parents who have successfully dealt with their child’s diagnosis, they see that there is so much to be hopeful about. And the kids all have a great time!” she says.

“I’m excited to meet the families at this wonderful event,” says Dr. Olsen. “Under the leadership of Dr. Hubbard, I’m very optimistic for continued advancements in the field. I believe that new and even better therapies will develop. This is a wonderful day to celebrate success and remain hopeful for an even brighter future.”


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