Cancer survivor turns dream into reality

Cancer survivor turns dream into reality

Shannon Hartey, of Mays Landing, was unhappy after walking by her old playroom at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) at the age of 16.

Shannon Hartey, of Mays Landing, was unhappy after walking by her old playroom at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) at the age of 16.

It had been eight years the soon-to-be-minted Rowan University public relations graduate spent her days calling the hospital her home away from home, and everything about the playroom was exactly the same.

For Hartey, who was a regular at CHOP while she fought acute myeloblastic leukemia from ages five and a half to eight, the playroom was a special, safe place to escape to.

Playroom ‘struck something’

Eight years removed from the hospital, the unchanged playroom “struck something” in Hartey and she wanted to improve it.

And so she developed “Shannon’s Dream,” a program to decorate children’s hospital rooms and play areas in an effort to brighten their often-stressful days during illness, a way to ease youngsters through the transition to hospital stays.

“Shannon’s Dream” was Hartey’s own idea from the beginning and was a way for her to help children going through a situation similar to her childhood experience.

Hartey wanted children's stays in the hospital to be as pleasant as a hospital stay could be.

“Being someone who lost three years of childhood, I want to make it easier for other kids,” said Hartey, who noted she wanted to give patients a “more friendly atmosphere” to call home.

Provides gifts, too

She also has provided gifts for young patients and their families when they checked in and a gift to congratulate the patients when they left the hospital. Those gifts were inspired by the presents she received when she finally got to go home cancer-free in 1996, a shih tzu puppy, Tag, and her very own backyard playground built by her parents and their friends.

“It was a nice surprise to say congratulations,” said Hartey.

The entire program is free to the patients and their families.

Hartey, 24, daughter of Donna and Patrick Hartey of Mays Landing, segued Shannon’s Dream into “Room for Hope” in 2012, expanding the project and rebranding it with a new logo and website.

Rowan PR students help out

She had help along the way. Students in the Rowan 2012 Public Relations senior capstone class took on the rebranding. Since then Room for Hope has grown to include several local hospitals in New Jersey, such as the new Virtua Hospital in Voorhees.

She is grateful to the Rowan Public Relations Department, which not only gave her an education but which also helped to fine tune her dream.

Now, Hartey hopes to turn “Room for Hope” into her full-time profession after she attends graduate school to study health communications at the University of Delaware.

“Doctors told me I would be lucky if I made it to high school. College wasn't even a topic of discussion. Now I am applying to graduate school so I have exceeded expectations,” said Hartey, who while at Rowan was a member of the Public Relations Student Society of America and Rowan’s student-run public relations firm, PRaction.