Spreading the Warmth of Holiday Cheer

By Amanda Sangster - January 02, 2024

For more than a decade, Moffitt Cancer Center’s Patient and Family Advisory Program has brightened the holidays for patients undergoing treatment at the cancer center. On Christmas Eve, a dedicated group of volunteers, including many patients, joined forces with Moffitt leaders and team members to deliver a heartwarming gift of blankets to those spending the holiday in the hospital.

The Patient and Family Advisory Program joined Moffitt leaders and staff in handing out blankets on Christmas Eve.
The Patient and Family Advisory Program joins Moffitt leaders and staff in handing out blankets on Christmas Eve.

For some patients grappling with cancer, the holidays can be particularly challenging. While their loved ones celebrate at home, some find themselves admitted to the hospital or undergoing surgery. The idea for a holiday blanket distribution originally came from a patient advisor who had spent time in the hospital over the holidays.

The annual outreach effort extends across Moffitt’s Magnolia and McKinley campuses to reach as many patients as possible. The blankets, while seemingly simple, carry a profound message. They let patients know that they’re cared for and that someone is thinking about them during the holidays.

For David Dauman, co-chair of the Patient and Family Advisory Council and multiple myeloma survivor thanks to Moffitt, this is the fifth year his family has helped with the event. Dauman spent the 2014 holiday season at Moffitt after receiving a lifesaving stem cell transplant. Dauman celebrated Hanukkah and his daughter’s third birthday with his family virtually due to isolation precautions for transplant patients.

A group of five people stand behind a cart filled with rolled up blankets while smiling.
Advisors and volunteers delivered blankets to Moffitt's Magnolia and McKinley campuses.

Volunteering has become a Dauman family affair. Daughter Lauren is too young to volunteer, but she spreads joy with personalized cards that accompany each blanket delivery. This is her third year offering this support. Her older brother, Jacob, offered the same cards of encouragement in 2019 and 2020.

“Finding a way to give back to Moffitt has been the motivation for my volunteer efforts,” Dauman said. “To know that my children want to offer their own support to Moffitt patients and families makes me so proud as a parent. As a family, we have added this to our year-end tradition of gratitude and joy.”

For many Moffitt team members and their family members, participating in this event has become a much-anticipated tradition.

Dr. Robert Keenan, Chief Medical Officer
Dr. Robert Keenan, Chief Medical Officer

“My kids even volunteered when they were teens,” shared Anne Bidelman, manager of Moffitt’s Patient and Family Advisory Program. “It’s the most meaningful thing I do over the holiday season. My family knows where I am on Christmas Eve. They know not to ask me for dinner plans because I’ll be at Moffitt handing out blankets!”

This year added a special touch to the tradition as Moffitt’s chief medical officer, Dr. Robert Keenan, celebrated his final Christmas Eve at Moffitt. Having distributed blankets since joining the center in 2015, Keenan is now preparing for retirement.

“The blankets are a symbol of community,” Keenan explained. “It shows patients that we — their doctors, nurses and fellow patients — are rallying behind them when they need it most. It’s been a privilege to be part of such a meaningful tradition that spreads so much joy.”

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