Free-of-charge robotic companion helps comfort 5 pediatric cancer and sickle cell patients at UVA Children's
Submitted by Aflac Incorporated
COLUMBUS, Ga., June 21, 2023 /CSRwire/ - Trailblazing University of Virginia basketball legend and South Carolina women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley teamed up with Aflac Incorporated, a leading provider of supplemental health insurance in the U.S., to deliver My Special Aflac Ducks, a free-of-charge resource created for children ages 3 and up with cancer and sickle cell disease, to patients at UVA Children's in Charlottesville, Virginia. Coach Staley, Aflac U.S. President Virgil Miller and UVA women's basketball coach Amaka "Coach Mox" Agugua-Hamilton participated in a special event where 5 patients each received their own social robot as part of Aflac's 28-year, $168-plus million philanthropic commitment supporting children with cancer and blood disorders.
"The past year working with Aflac confirmed for me that caring on purpose is in Aflac's DNA and I am honored to continue working with the organization to help close the gaps on and off the court," Coach Staley said. "Aflac and I have a shared passion for giving back to our communities, particularly when it comes to cancer, sickle cell and children. It was great to be back in Charlottesville to deliver My Special Aflac Duck and bring joy to these patients."
In consultation with more than 100 children, families and medical professionals, Aflac teamed up with Empath Labs to create My Special Aflac Duck, a social robot that helps provide social-emotional support to pediatric cancer and sickle cell patients above the age of 3 through interactive technology. Designed to help comfort kids during their cancer or sickle cell disease journey, My Special Aflac Duck uses medical play and lifelike movement, and it mimics emotion to help children cope with their treatments.
The event comes following the release of "Dawn's List" this past March. Created by Aflac in collaboration with Coach Staley, the list aims to address some of the equity issues in women's college sports, including investment equity, fan experience and community engagement. Aflac committed to several actions to address these gaps for female athletes, their fans and their communities, including efforts to bring awareness to coach and player achievements, enhancements to the on-site experience and the creation of opportunities that help athletes and coaches further establish themselves as role models by helping communities. The My Special Aflac Duck event is one example of how Aflac and Coach Staley are giving back.
"Aflac started the My Special Aflac Duck program five years ago to bring comfort and joy to young patients and their families when they need it the most," said Aflac U.S. President Virgil Miller. "Our steadfast commitment to support children with cancer and blood disorders has resulted in the delivery of more than 23,000 ducks to children in the U.S., Northern Ireland and Japan. We are honored to continue that legacy by delivering these social companions to patients at UVA Children's."
Recipients at the Charlottesville event participated in a My Special Aflac Duck demonstration before taking part in an exciting scavenger hunt — including a clue reveal with Coach Staley — to meet their very own robotic companion. Following the hunt, patients and their families enjoyed various activities like creating a birth certificate and beaded necklace for their duck, coloring and more.
"Spending a lot of time in the hospital can be overwhelming for our patients and emotional for their families," said Dr. Michael Engel, UVA Children's Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Division Chief. "My Special Aflac Duck will surely bring happiness to children during their treatments and help comfort them at home. We are thankful that Coach Staley, UVA's own Coach Mox and Aflac were here with us today to deliver this free-of-charge resource."
Additional features of My Special Aflac Duck include an interactive mobile app that allows children to virtually bathe and feed their duck, customizable soundscapes that provide soothing visuals and sounds, smart sensors that enable touch and awareness of light and sounds, and a calming heartbeat and breathing vibrations. To help children express themselves, the duck comes with seven feelings emoji discs that, when tapped to a sensor on the duck's chest, prompt My Special Aflac Duck to emulate each emotion.
Health care providers, support organizations and families can order My Special Aflac Duck for children 3 years or older who have been diagnosed with cancer or sickle cell disease at https://myspecialaflacduck.com.
ABOUT AFLAC INCORPORATED
Aflac Incorporated (NYSE: AFL), a Fortune 500 company, has helped provide financial protection and peace of mind for more than 67 years to millions of policyholders and customers through its subsidiaries in the U.S. and Japan. In the U.S., Aflac is the No. 1 provider of supplemental health insurance products.1 In Japan, Aflac Life Insurance Japan is the leading provider of cancer and medical insurance policies in force. In 2021, the company became a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). In 2022, the company was included in the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index for the ninth year, the World's Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere for the 17th consecutive year, Fortune's World's Most Admired Companies for the 22nd time and Bloomberg's Gender-Equality Index for the fourth consecutive year. To find out how to get help with expenses health insurance doesn't cover, get to know us at aflac.com or aflac.com/espanol. Investors may learn more about Aflac Incorporated and its commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability at investors.aflac.com under "Sustainability."
ABOUT UVA CHILDREN'S
UVA Children's provides primary and specialty care in more than 30 specialties throughout the commonwealth and beyond. Located within UVA Medical Center, UVA Children's includes 111 beds, a dedicated pediatric emergency department, a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for infants and a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for children younger than 18. The UVA Children's Ambulatory Clinics at the Battle Building, which opened in 2014, provide integrated outpatient care to families from throughout the region.
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1LIMRA 2021 US Supplemental Health Insurance Total Market Repor
Aflac is a Fortune 500 company, providing financial protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. When a policyholder or insured gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fairly, promptly and directly to the insured. For more than six decades, Aflac voluntary insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress.
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