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Graduation Days for Kids Battling Cancer in CMN Hospitals

As the school season comes to a close, millions of kids across the United States prepare for a summer of relaxation following their graduation. Those children look forward to playing with their friends outside, having time to brush up on their Fortnite skills, and going off to various camps and retreats. Graduation season stands out as a wonderful time in their lives. However, as one group of kids move up in grade or don caps and gowns, another group prepares for a very different kind of graduation that ends with the ringing of a bell.

Kids who enter Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals for cancer treatment face a long and difficult battle toward the day they can leave and live their lives cancer-free. When the doctors caring for these children believe they have sufficiently recovered, they are led to a bell to ring in the end of their difficult journey and the beginning of a cancer-less life. The bell ringing tradition dates back to 1996 when it was begun by United States Navy Rear Admiral Irve Le Moyne. Le Moyne installed a brass bell in the center where he was receiving treatment for the cancer that eventually overtook him a year later. The bells that began appearing in cancer wards after his passing included an inscription with a short poem by the late Le Moyne:


Ringing Out

Ring this bell

Three times well

It’s toll to clearly say,

My treatment’s done

This course is run

And I am on my way!


These moments, kids ringing bells to announce their recovery, straddle the line between being heartwarming and heart-wrenching. No child should have to go through cancer treatment. However, we should celebrate when kids recover from battles with serious illnesses. Here are just a few of the kids graduating from their treatments and partaking in the ringing of the bell with all of the joy in their hearts on display.

Benjamin Burke

Benjamin was diagnosed with leukemia shortly after his seventh birthday. While battling his cancer, he spent time raising money to help others like himself. He and his family started a “lemonaid” stand and have raised over $100,000 to help other kids struggling to recover from cancer at the Ann & Rover H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. After three and a half years of treatment, Benjamin finally got to ring the bell at the end of April. He’s continuing to fight for other kids by becoming a national ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

Grace Griffin

St. Louis Children’s Hospital helped Grace through her treatment for a cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. It’s one of the most common forms of cancer in children, but that didn’t make Grace’s fight against it any easier. Traci Griffin, Grace’s mom, talked about her daughter’s journey saying, “The treatments for Grace are sometimes very brutal, sometimes very painful. She’s often not feeling well, like most kids on chemo, but she’s been extremely, extremely strong and brave throughout this whole process.” Despite the hardships, Grace fought hard and even continued attending school. Her chances of remaining cancer free are, in the words of her doctor, “very, very high.”

Dylan Pogodzinski

At 4 years old, Dylan was diagnosed with an extremely rare type of cancer called Burkitt’s lymphoma. It’s one of the scariest kinds of cancer out there, with tumors capable of doubling in size every 48 hours. Luckily, the Pogodzinski family were able to take Dylan to Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. The doctors were able to make a correct diagnosis and immediately start Dylan on an intensive regimen of chemotherapy for the next five months. While he still receives monthly checkups, he was officially declared cancer-free in February and is now back attending kindergarten, happy and healthy.

Peyton Richardson

After Texas Children’s Hospital diagnosed Peyton with acute lymphocytic leukemia in 2015, she began a long and difficult journey. It took her over two years of treatment for Peyton to get her chance to ring the bell. “You all were my best friends throughout all of this. I just love you all so much and I’m so thankful for you guys,” she said before ringing the bell while onlookers gathered to support her had tears in their eyes. “I think it will take a little bit to sink in that I’m done, I’m finished. I’m glad, I’m happy I’m done.”

To help more kids reach their graduations from treatment and ring their bells, please sign up for Extra Life to help sick and injured kids in hospitals across the US and Canada!