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If someone had told me six months ago when I accepted the Program Coordinator position here at CURE, just how much it would change my outlook on life in such a short period of time, I probably wouldn’t have believed them. Now, six months later, as I sit and reflect on my time so far with CURE, I can say wholeheartedly how wonderfully this organization has impacted my life. I often like to use the phrasing “I didn’t find CURE, CURE found me.”

I entered this position during the holiday season, so right off the bat, there was a lot to be done. Without hesitation, Holly and Sam were both extremely helpful with getting me situated and helping me learn the ropes in the office (and still are). From day one, I had promised myself that one of my goals when accepting this position was to get to know every family the best I could so that I could gain an authentic relationship with each one. There are still many families I have yet to get to know (I look forward in doing so). However, the ones I have met along the way so far, have genuinely sparked my soul and have given me a very different view on life, one that I really appreciate. Despite being thrown life’s hardest curve balls, these children and their families have taught me a new definition of strength, love and a new realization of support.

At the beginning of last month, we held our Brick Laying Ceremony. I was moved beyond measure by the families that were in attendance and their strength. It was my first interaction with some of our bereaved families and I wanted the ceremony to be perfect for them while honoring a child they have lost. There were tears, there were laughs, there were hugs, and there were stories, lots of stories. Hearing the stories told about these precious children who had passed, moved me deeply. To hear their memory and characteristics live on through the stories their parents and siblings told, with so much love and pride behind them, was something I will never forget.

In late May, we held our Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, which I was very excited about because we were able to honor some really wonderful people! I tell my loved ones all the time how absolutely amazed I am by the volunteer base that CURE has, it really is a second family. Everyone wants to help, to support, and to voluntarily give their time towards something that is close to their heart and if you ask me, those are truly honorable characteristics to encompass.  Our CURE volunteers have reminded me that there are still genuinely good people left in this world, and we are extremely lucky to have them!

June 3rd was our annual Survivors Day Picnic, and my first time being in charge of it. I am a huge perfectionist and without a doubt, my own biggest critic, so the pressure was definitely on in my mind. I wanted it to be perfect for these kids and their families because well, they mean the world to me and this day is all about celebrating their strength. The weather leading up to Survivors Day looked more than promising, 75 and sunny, I was ecstatic because the last few years it had rained. Silly me for trusting any forecast because we all know that Rochester weather is a roll of the die on any given day. So when it started down pouring around 12:30, my heart sank. Around 1:15, I realized the shelter was little by little becoming packed, the weather wasn’t keeping our CURE families from having a good time, and even though it was pouring, that brightened my day better than any ray of sunshine could have. I saw so many smiles on children’s faces, they were laughing and playing and just simply happy, and that is all I wanted for them. Parents were happy, their family members were happy, everyone looked happy. I look up to each and every one of our CURE kids because honestly, their strength and love for life is so admirable. These kids are absolutely phenomenal human beings and they have already taught me more than they will ever know. There were a few things on my end that I learned from so that I can do better for next year, but I imagine that to be common in anyone’s first time running an event. All in all, it was a great day. Again, our volunteers blew me away with their help and commitment the entire event. Each vendor present at the event was wonderful and so great with the kids. We had a handful of CURE board members in attendance that were also a huge help. Lastly, all of the wonderful women who make up the CURE staff were there to help me with whatever I needed, and I couldn’t have done it without them! It is very empowering to work along side such a great team of intelligent and successful women. All of these factors combined created one successful puzzle and I couldn’t have done it without each and every piece, so I thank all of you from the bottom of my heart!

I genuinely love the Program Coordinator position because it gives me the opportunity to wear different hats, and is constantly challenging me to learn more each day and grow so that I can provide the best social support to all of our CURE families. With that being said, here’s to the next six months!

Last but not least, I want to say to each CURE family (and the CURE staff who have become my second family): you have all become such a strong and important impact on my life, and I hope in time, I can do the exact same for all of you!

– Andrea


June Newsletter

Hailey & Lenny: Changing Lives through Double Robotics

Hailey & Lenny: Changing Lives through Double Robotics
Written By: Jen Bertrand & The Coniber Family
Bookbag? Check! Homework? Check! Robot? Um…?
Taking one look into a 5th grade classroom at Wolcott Street School (WSS) you would expect students working, lesson materials, Chromebooks, etc. but what you may not notice right away is the use of Double Robotics. Our very own Le Roy Knight, Hailey Coniber, daughter of Jason and Missy Coniber, has been using a Double Robotics unit, affectionately nicknamed Lenny, to attend school from home for the last three years. It was our WSS principal, Carol Messura, who first heard of Double Robotics and reached out to our local EduTech seeking more information; Director of EduTech, Kelli Eckdahl, has led the way with using Double Robotics in classrooms for students who can not traditionally attend school. Eckdahl shared that health, medical, & anxiety are common reasons students use Double Robotics and that use of the unit, “allows them to maintain their friendships and their social connection.” Currently, there are seven Double Robotics units in use through the Genesee Valley/Wayne-Finger Lakes region,” says Eckdahl. We are so fortunate to utilize this device within our district; Lenny has become the answer for Hailey, allowing her to form friendships with peers, connect with teachers and continue her education despite medical challenges.
Hailey’s Point of View with Double Robotics
Introducing the use of Double Robotics into the classroom the last three years could not have been any easier! Through the use of clear expectations, trial-and-error, loads of patience and of course fun, our students and staff at WSS have taken to Lenny as just another student in the room. “The kids just don’t get hung up about it, they still see the individual not the technology,” mentioned Eckdahl in working with students. Double Robotics has allowed Hailey to be seen. To be heard. To be a friend amongst her peers. To learn, struggle and succeed right alongside other students. To have a full education experience despite struggling medically. “I find instructing a student using Double Robotics technology very rewarding. Seeing Hailey’s smiling face each morning, hearing the love of learning in her voice, and getting to know her bubbly personality makes her an integral part of our classroom,” remarked her classroom teacher, Dorreen Caldwell.  So how does Hailey like going to school using a robot? Take a look for yourself to what she thinks.
I really like working with Lenny. He lets me see my friends and be in a real classroom. Sometimes
it is hard being the kid with cancer, but Lenny let’s me feel like a normal student. I can do centers, switch classes, raise up if I have a question, and even go to specials. When I don’t feel well I can
log off without having to worry. My teachers and friends like to dress Lenny for holidays or special occasions in school. I think it makes the robot feel more like another person. It is funny to go down
the hall and have the other grades point us out! – Hailey
Throughout 3rd, 4th and 5th grades, Hailey’s peers have been a constant support in her life while using Lenny. BlueTooth causing a problem? Audio or visual glitching? Is Lenny doing his famous “dance” because of WiFi issues? You can bet a student is at the ready to troubleshoot. When asking some of her friends about having Lenny in the classroom, one of her peers responded, “I just feel special having Lenny in our class, I feel like the robot is helping other people.” Another student commented, “It’s really cool to know it’s like she’s with us even though she can’t be, because she’s interacting with students and teachers.” Hailey’s classmates enjoy having Lenny as an integral member of their class and see the impact this technology is having for their friend.
Parent Perspective on Double Robotics
“In 2009, Hailey was diagnosed with Stage 4 Adrenal Cortical Carcinoma.  It was soon discovered that cancer had metastasized to her lungs. To date, she has undergone more than 10 lung resection surgeries. She is currently being treated at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester, New York, and is in a study group at St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee.
Due to weekly clinic appointments and approximately 27 daily doses of medication required to supplement her adrenal insufficiencies, it has become necessary for Hailey to attend school from home. From 2013-2014, Hailey received tutoring from our school district focusing on math and reading for 6 hours a week. She soon started falling behind, as it was hard to cover a whole week’s learning in a few hours. As parents, we were also concerned about the social skills lacking from not being around classmates. Our special education team soon had a suggestion, know as Double Robotics. We were skeptical at first…we were unsure how easy it would be to operate, and of the reaction by other children. Would we be setting Hailey up to bullying?
Having Lenny in the classroom has been a tremendous advantage for Hailey. Not only does she follow the daily curriculum, but it allows for her to work directly with her peers. She very quickly adapted to the maneuvering of the robot and functions for operation from home or inpatient at the hospital. The class acts as if Hailey herself is in the room, and have been extremely helpful when travelling down the hall. Lenny allows for participation in specials such as music and art, the ability to take breaks as needed, and for medications to be administered without interruptions to the class multiple times a day.
We are fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive school district in Le Roy. It truly has taken the community of teachers, tech support, and staff to make Lenny the success he is today. Just like any child, Lenny has his off days and grumpy moments. At times we have had to work independently or use Google Hangouts until he is back up and running, but these interruptions are minimal compared to the other daily challenges a child undergoing treatment often faces. For these reasons we have decided to reach out to others by sharing not only our journey but also how a classroom robot can have such a positive impact during a difficult time.” -Jason & Missy
Hailey’s sister, McKenna, has also been a key player in Hailey’s experience with Double Robotics. The first year of using Lenny, McKenna was tremendously helpful in delivering assignments, homework and all sorts of lesson materials back and forth between school and home for her sister. Three years later we have the help of our wonderful district courier, Randy Boyd to transport materials and McKenna is now a student at our Jr./Sr. High School. In supporting her sister McKenna reflected that,
I think that a robot in the classroom is beneficial to the person using it and the other students
in the classroom. For the student it helps them to be able to sit in a classroom with other people to learn.
They can learn alongside their classmates and ask questions when they need to. The classmates also
benefit since they are able to communicate with the person who is using the robot. I feel like Hailey has
made amazing progress ever since she started using the robot. -McKenna
The Future with Lenny
The Coniber family’s experience with Lenny the last three years has been revolutionary. Hailey is receiving a full education, better yet she is managing friendships and forming connections independently. Hailey will continue to require the use of this technology until medical scans show no evidence of disease for a minimum of five years. Our WSS team is excited to support Hailey in her upcoming transition to 6th grade and then to our Jr./Sr. High School building when she enters 7th grade. Hailey’s math and science teacher, Deb O’Geen, said it best when she stated, “I hope other children, like Miss Hailey Coniber, will be able to benefit from Double Robotics. Nothing in the world beats teaching and watching all children receive and earn an education, including the students who are homebound and are unable to attend school. Double Robotics is the key to their future.” If you would like more information about Double Robotics please review their site or contact your school district to connect with your local EduTech/BOCES. Our hope is that this glimpse into Hailey’s journey with Double Robotics will create numerous positive ripples, impacting and changing student lives for the better.
*Jen Bertrand, Instructional Tech Coach for Le Roy CSD has worked with the Coniber family as well as WSS staff and students supporting the use of Double Robotics; the aim of this article was to capture the voices of those most closely tied to the use of Lenny in a collaborative piece in order open the door of possibility for more students and families. Questions or further information about Double Robotics and the use of Lenny can be directed to Jen’s email at or Twitter @jbtechcoach.

May Newsletter

April Newsletter

Checking in with Kiersten…

February 4th was World Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. June is National Cancer Survivor Day. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness month. Funny thing is for me, every day is Childhood Cancer Awareness Day. Ever since June 9, 2001 I have been aware. It was a day that my whole world changed. I sometimes see posts on Facebook about someone wanting their friends to copy and repost about Cancer and someone fighting. I confess. I never repost. Those posts bug me, in fact. I don’t want anyone to ever feel guilty that they don’t post something about cancer. I also don’t want people to feel sorry for me because my son had cancer. Quite the opposite, in fact.

I would rather people be awed by my son, by his strength, by his quiet determination. By the way he has reacted to being a “cancer kid”. While I wish sometimes that it never happened to him, I do realize that because it did, I get to do the job I do and get to help people as a result. I think the first time the question of “Why him?”, was answered for me was when Austin was speaking in front of a group of school children about his experience. He was asked to speak because one of their classmates had been diagnosed with leukemia, just like Austin had been. Austin answered questions from the kids and I saw how he made a difference. That was the answer. Why him? Because he was there to share information and his experience so that more people could understand. And he continues to spread his knowledge to his teammates, to his peers and to raise awareness.

So what would I say in a Facebook post instead? I would say that every day 47 children are diagnosed with cancer. I would say that cancer does not discriminate. It does not care your race or religion, it is an equal opportunity offender and it has to be stopped. I would say there is not enough funding for childhood cancer. Only 4% of the $4.9 Billion budget of funding from the National Cancer Institute goes to fund Childhood Cancer research. 4%. Children have a life expectancy of a person in the United States is 78.74 years. That means a child like Austin who is diagnosed at the age of 4 has to deal with late effects, and a higher likelihood of a secondary cancer for 74 years. That’s a long time to have to deal with that. I would say, don’t feel sorry for someone, do something instead in their name. Get the awareness out, talk to your representatives about funding for childhood cancer research. It will do a lot more good than a simple Facebook post.


March Newsletter