The ninth annual RB Picnic, coordinated by the Emory Eye Center, will be held from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Saturday, June 2, 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 (retinoblastoma), which is a tumor of the retina (the back of the eye), 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 about 20,000 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.
“Over the last 20 to 30 years, with the advent of better chemotherapy, radiation treatment, cryotherapy and laser ablation of early or recurrent tumors, young RB patients’ results have almost completely reversed,” says Thomas M. Aaberg Sr., director of the Emory Eye Center. “Now the survival rate of this previously fatal disease - in almost all cases - is in the high 90 percent rate. Today’s physicians often have the luxury of concern over saving the eye - not just the child.”
On June 2, some 45 to 60 young patients, typically ranging in ages from infancy up to 12 years, will gather. 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 magic show, and Happy Tails pet assisted therapy (among the pets is a Pug dog, blind in one eye, like some of the children who will attend).
“I really look forward to this event,” says Baker Hubbard, MD, pediatric retinal specialist who treats these children. “ It is encouraging to see all the children together in a non-medical atmosphere where we can all relax and enjoy the fun events together.”
Rhonda Waldron, diagnostic echographer at the Emory Eye Center, who has organized the RB Picnic each year, says, “This event is so special because it provides those parents who may have a child newly diagnosed with RB the realization that this disease can have an outcome that is extremely positive.
“Even in the event that a child has to have an enucleation (eye removal), these parents can see that other children with prosthetic eyes look quite normal - and function in the same ways as other children," explains Waldron. "By meeting other more experienced parents who have successfully dealt with their child’s diagnosis, mothers and dads new to the disease see that there is much to be hopeful about. Their shared experiences are so helpful and meaningful.”
Dr. Aaberg says, “We continue to be thrilled about this event and what it means to these families. Our physicians who help these children are increasingly encouraged by today’s new treatments and results. It is heartwarming to have one special day of the year to celebrate this wonderful event.”
Lunch is provided by Truett Cathy of Chick-fil-A, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta provided additional support for the event.
RB DAY PICNIC
Children who have survived retinoblastoma and Family members, and Emory Eye Center staff
Saturday, June 2,
9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
WD Thompson Park
1760 Mason Mill Rd.
If you would like to interview a family, please contact Joy Bell by May 22 - 404-778-3711.
The Emory Eye Center includes the Department of Ophthalmology, part of the Emory School of Medicine, its clinical sector and all aspects of research. Ranked in the top 20 of the U.S. News & World Report’s annual survey of the nation’s best eye centers, Emory Eye Center remains in the top ten of the peer-evaluated Ophthalmology Times survey. The South’s first corneal transplant was performed in Georgia in 1947; its refractive surgery trials were conducted in the 1980s, and it remains at the forefront of many national clinical trials, including those on macular degeneration and glaucoma.