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CMN Hershey Kicks Off Its 40th Annual Telethon

From June 3 – 6, the 40th annual Children’s Miracle Network Telethon – dedicated to giving kids the gift of growing up – airs on WGAL News 8 in Harrisburg. This year’s Telethon includes several highlights and features, including Miracle Child Caden. Donations throughout the week will be doubled by generous sponsors.

Caden has been a patient at the Penn State Health Children’s Hospital since birth, utilizing its NICU and other services across the health system – urology, cardiology, and audiology to name a few – for 18 years. In June 2024, as Caden prepared to graduate from high school, his mom, Jessica, shared the following note:

My name is “Elsa,” and I’m married to “Thor.” Our son, “The Hulk,” likes to assign alter egos to family and friends. Our family introductions may seem odd to others, but interpreting his world through beloved characters helps our son, Caden, who has Down syndrome, bridge gaps and feel confident.

We’ve also found these alter egos useful in Caden’s medical care. He braves his blood draws because he feels strong like The Hulk. He asked his speech therapist, “Rizzo,” to help him work on the “s” sound so he could pronounce Sandy, his favorite character in Grease. And, when learning to do weekly injections to treat his juvenile idiopathic arthritis, the nurses in Rheumatology played “Let It Go.” As the song built up to the chorus, they sang along, supporting Caden as he did his own injection. Three years later, Caden still does his injections with “Let It Go” playing in the background!

Caden has a desire to spread joy. Despite limited verbal skills, he connects with people through sign language, dance, or his iPad. He loves video games and playing on his high school Bocce team. Last month, he even took his friend to prom!

Our family has such gratitude for the positive experiences made possible through CMN, the Children’s Hospital, and Penn State Health. The nurses always go above and beyond to make tough times easier. One time, Child Life lessened Caden’s anxiety by dressing his Mario plush in a surgical gown before his operation. We’ve also been touched by unexpected kindness, like the woman changing our linens who showed us the best spot to watch the fireworks and the man at check-in who welcomes Caden with a fist-bump.

When we walk the halls of your hospital, we see familiar faces. In the “real world,” I’m sensitive to the stares and comments strangers make toward my son. But at Hershey, Caden is not a curiosity – he’s a bright young man and a respected patient!

Please join us as we celebrate the 40th annual Children’s Miracle Network Telethon and watch the Live Finale on June 6 at 7 p.m. Click here if you’d like to contribute to the Gift of Growing Up.