About Our Cause
The Sumrows’ Story
Twenty-nine years ago, Pam and Ken Sumrow started a tradition of philanthropy that is still going strong. Each September, the Sumrow family, in partnership with Children’s Health, put on the Red Balloon Children Helping Children Tennis Tournament to raise money for the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Health. In total, and with the help of many volunteers, the event has raised $3.3 million for pediatric cancer research and programs.
The Sumrows started the tournament 29 years ago in honor of their son, Clint, who was successfully treated at Children’s Medical Center for cancer when he was only five years old. The idea of a tournament to raise funds for Children’s Health was a perfect way to combine the family’s love of tennis with their desire to help other families facing the challenge of caring for a child with cancer.
Almost three decades later, Clint Sumrow, now serves as event volunteer co-chair along with his sisters, Christy Sumrow Byerly and Lauren Sumrow Frey. What started as a grassroots effort to give back to Children's Health is now a United States Tennis Association-sanctioned event, taking place each September, Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
The event serves as a chance for young athletes to see firsthand how they can help make life better for children.
The Pauline Allen Gill Center
The Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Medical Center is a world-class pediatric treatment center recognized nationally for exceptional clinical care, leadership in pediatric cancer research and academic excellence. With 24 pediatric hematologists and oncologists, all of whom are faculty members at UT Southwestern Medical Center, the Gill Center cares for more than 1,000 new patients each year, making it the largest childhood cancer and blood center in the region.
Meet Our Honored Heroes
Morgan Lewis brought her 4-year-old daughter Reese to the hospital because Reese had a fever and kept sleeping for long periods of time. The Plano mother of two thought this would be a routine emergency room visit that would end with the doctor sending the family home with a prescription. “When they told us blood transfusion and bone marrow, I knew it was leukemia,” Mrs. Lewis said.
Reese was immediately transferred from Children’s Medical Center Plano to Children’s Medical Center Dallas in an ambulance and upon additional tests being run, her parent were told that their daughter’s acute lymphoblastic leukemia was “the most treatable, most curable type of cancer.”
The first month was a blur for the family but Reese took it like a champ and enjoyed her nurses and fell in love with the playroom at the hospital with oh so many toys.
Now 6 years old, Reese is the in the maintenance phase of her chemotherapy treatments. She enjoys her Barbie dolls, the My Little Pony TV show, eating California rolls with her grandfather and her dog, a happy lumbering great Pyrene-Labrador mix named Walter.
Diagnosed with leukemia, 6-year-old Sofia Munoz had to be hospitalized for the first 28 days of her chemotherapy. She was then able to go home, but after just 20 minutes of being at home she developed a fever, a common risk factor, and had to return to the hospital for another three weeks.
While back in the hospital, Sofia went to the playroom every time it was open and always looked for her favorite child life specialist. She embraced activities at the hospital such as: Legos, arts and crafts, Disney movies and music therapy.
Earlier this year, Sofia’s immunity dropped to zero and she went into isolation, staying in the same hospital room for two and a half weeks. Her mother said, “She’s just been really resilient. I think kids are just better at this stuff than we are as adults. We try to take it day by day. If I think of it in the big grand scheme of things, it’s just overwhelming.”
Sofia’s cheerful resilience worked though and she was eventually released from isolation and able to go to summer camp.