Like most Fairfax area families, Sawyer Stephenson and his mother, Jenna Sangastiano, were introduced to Special Love by Holly Senn, the Child Life Specialist at L.J. Murphy Children’s Hospital. Sawyer started participating through the VOICE program (Virtual Online In-home Camp Experiences) when he was just five years old. Two years later, the entire family had joined Special Love’s family.
“Having SL programming was a wonderful reprieve while Sawyer was in the hospital for his chemotherapy. It coincided with camp in 2020. While the admission is only 4-5 days, because of COVID restrictions, there aren't as many activities in the hospital. We brought virtual camp with us to the hospital, and it really made the time there memorable and enjoyable.”
Jenna credits Special Love for giving Sawyer and her family an opportunity to connect with other children and families virtually, which helped decrease the isolation most oncology families felt during the pandemic. She added that Sawyer, who is a rising second grader who loves reading, Pokemon, and playing baseball, is very proud of the projects he's done through camp, and is learning the ukulele, all of which help build his confidence.
“We are so proud of how well he is doing and how far he's come [and] we're grateful to Special Love for all its programming, as well as to all the volunteers who help make it happen.”