The Alfaro family had forgotten all about the design contest sponsored by Starlight Children’s Foundation and the Encompass Group -- they already had their happy ending when little Peter Lukas was declared cancer free. So when the Starlight Foundation called to let them know young Anna Kristina’s work won top honors, the Alfaros were absolutely delighted –but none more than Anna Kristina herself, who said “It’s pretty cool knowing I accomplished something.”
San Antonio.- The Alfaro family had forgotten all about the design contest sponsored by Starlight Children’s Foundation and the Encompass Group -- they already had their happy ending when little Peter Lukas was declared cancer free. So when the Starlight Foundation called to let them know young Anna Kristina’s work won top honors, the Alfaros were absolutely delighted –but none more than Anna Kristina herself, who said “It’s pretty cool knowing I accomplished something.”
By Angela Covo
Last August, designer Diane Von Furstenberg unveiled a new line of hospital gowns to help improve the hospital experience for adult patients at the Cleveland Clinic. The gowns were comfortable and creative – and more “dignified” than the typical gown with its traditional design flaw.
The new fashionable designer garments spurred Encompass Group and the Starlight Children’s Foundation to do the same for millions of young pediatric patients across the country. So they turned to those who knew best what types of designs might make kids’ hospital experiences more pleasant – the kids themselves.
Starlight children, including their siblings, were asked to submit entries for the newest design that would cover Encompass Group’s next line of pediatric patient apparel, professional staff apparel, bedding and patient care products
Starlight’s seriously ill children and teens and their siblings – all too familiar with hospital stays – submitted more than 325 designs from across the US and Canada. The lovingly crafted designs reflected what the kids thought should be on a pediatric gown that would cheer up patients during scary and lonely hospital stays.
Anna Kristina Alfaro, just 11 years old at the time of her entry, was named one of the contest’s four winners, and the only one from the Southwest region of the country.
Her design, You Are Not Alone, was unveiled last December at a Starlight Hospital Happening event at Methodist Children’s Hospital – just minutes from Christus Santa Rosa Hospital, where her younger brother regularly received treatments for cancer when he was just 10 months old.
Her experiences with her seriously ill sibling are symbolized in You Are Not Alone. The images of figures surrounded by other figures are meant to remind hospitalized children of the communities of support that surround them –- their parents, siblings, friends, and other young children around the world also facing illness.
“The idea behind the design was to help remind everybody that others are going through the same thing – everyone in the design is a different person,” Anna Kristina explained.
The accomplished young lady, now 12 years old, also plays the flute, dances ballet and sings in the choir.
“But I really love to draw,” she told La Prensa.
“I felt so happy when I learned I had won,” Anna Kristina said. “I never thought I would win a big contest like this -– to me, it was one of the best things ever. I hope my drawing brings young patients happiness and joy, knowing they are surrounded by people who care for them. If they just believe in this, then I know they will feel better.”
Her mother, Alena Rojikova Alfaro simply says, “She has a gold heart.”
Anna Kristina’s younger brother, Peter Lukas, was diagnosed with a yolk sac cancerous tumor when he was just 10 months old. A cancer diagnosis strikes at the very soul of a family, and the Alfaros were grief stricken -- but they pulled together as a family.
And in that spirit, Anna Kristina and her siblings showed great compassion toward their baby brother, playing with him and praying for him whenever they could. Anna Kristina is one of five children – Peter Lukas, 4, Jan Filip, 10, Jose David, 13, and Maria Ester, the oldest, 15.
“My kids never said they were jealous of all the attention given to Peter Lukas even though sometimes they might have felt less attention from us,” Alena Rojikova Alfaro. “The experience made them stronger.”
The Alfaros are grateful recipients of the Starlight and its Great Escapes family activities program.
“When someone in your family is sick and there is suddenly a black cloud hanging over your home, the last thing on your mind is to go out and have fun. Between a sudden diagnoses of cancer, immediate surgery, frequent check ups for Peter Lukas, four children at two different schools, work and bills, we simply didn’t have any energy left to plan fun activities,” Alena explained.
“When we finally became a part of Starlight and were given opportunities to attend Great Escapes, it helped us remember that the brighter sides of life still existed and it was so exciting to meet other people with similar challenges,” she added.
Now 4 years old, Peter Lukas is cancer free.
Anna Kristina hopes her design will help bring back positive memories for Peter Lukas, as well.
“When he grows up, if he remembers anything that happened, I want him to remember all the people who were there for him and for us [during his illness],” she added.
Anna Kristina was inspired by life’s events to enter her first contest – now the young lady is trying her hand at even more challenging competitions.
She recently learned about the “Doodle for Google” contest and decided to participate.
“I don’t think I’ll win, but I wanted to try,” she said.
She certainly has a winning chance -- after all, it’s the first step of any journey that’s the hardest.
ABOUT THE STARLIGHT CHILDREN’S FOUNDATION
When a child or teenager has a serious medical condition, everyone in the family is affected. For more than 25 years, Starlight Children’s Foundation has been dedicated to helping seriously ill children and their families cope with their pain, fear and isolation through entertainment, education and family activities.
Starlight’s programs have helped countless kids and their families by distracting children from their pain, helping them better understand and manage their illnesses and connecting families facing similar challenges so that no one feels alone. Starlight serves more than 19,000 children and family members per month in Texas alone, with an array of outpatient, hospital-based and Web offerings. Programs are also delivered through a network of chapters and offices in all U.S. states and Canadian provinces and internationally through affiliates in Australia, Japan and the United Kingdom.
To learn more about the programs, visit www.starlight.org/texas.
In the photo, Anna Kristina's dad, Jose Alfaro, Anna Krisitna Alfaro and her mom, Alena Rojikova Alfaro accept the award during a ceremony at Methodist Hospital in December.