Class Project Serves Cancer Patients and Families

April 04, 2012 Mattie

When Peter Brown (MBA ’98) reached out to his former professor Robert Bies for advice about increasing the impact of the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation, he received ideas from 30 undergraduate students. The fall 2011 Creativity and Innovation class took on the assignment as their consulting project, implementing Parent Meal Night, introducing the children to Hoya athletes, and proposing technology that would better express the stories of the families and the foundation.

“We could see as the semester progressed that the students were evolving as they tried to determine if their ideas had merit and could be effectively implemented and applied within a hospital setting or even with the population at hand,” says Brown. “Their semester-long commitment to developing innovative ideas and strategies to help the foundation grow and meet our mission made the projects very successful.”

Brown and his wife, Vicki, founded the 501(c)3 tax-exempt charity in 2009, in memory of their only child, Mattie, who died at the age of 7 from osteosarcoma, a type of bone cancer. Mattie was treated at Georgetown’s Lombardi Cancer Center, where the foundation now funds a child-life specialist position to help families who battle childhood cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The foundation’s mission is to address the psychological, social, and emotional needs of children and their families.

Students from the class experienced these needs firsthand during visits to the center and meetings with the children and their families. Inspired to develop ways to support the families, they created smartphone and tablet apps that would accurately report the children’s pain levels and delivered art supplies to the children and a free meal to parents, who barely had time to take a break or eat.

“This project has a human dimension that can be -missing from other classes,” Dominique Harrison (BSBA ’12) says. “It tapped into our emotions and Georgetown’s mission. We are men and women serving others.”

Their services included connecting the foundation with the Georgetown Law Center for pro bono advocacy work, setting up a halftime announcement at a men’s basketball game, and analyzing the foundation’s website to make the cyber connections that would turn into online donations and support groups. 

“I am a believer in -community-based learning projects in my courses, where students take what they learn in the classroom and apply that knowledge to solve real-world problems,” says Bies, professor of management. “Working with Vicki and Pete on this project enabled my students to make a personal difference in the lives of pediatric cancer patients and their families, which can be the most powerful of lessons.”

As a transformational experience, the class’s five team projects affected more than just the children and families that the foundation addresses and raises awareness for.

“This was the first class that I talked about when I went home and my family asked what I’ve learned,” says Bradley Crocker (BSBA ’12). “It changes your perspective on work and on future -projects, showing us that we can have an impact.”

— Amy Jessee

Learn more about the Mattie Miracle Cancer Foundation at mattiemiracle.com.

Pictured in the front row, left to right: Bob Bies, Peter Brown, and Vicki Sardi-Brown.