Smile Packs Bring Joy to Pediatric Cancer Patients

Northwestern Medicine
Cancer Care/Oncology February 01, 2019

Just a few months before her third birthday, Maddie Kramer was diagnosed with a rare, cancerous tumor on her spinal cord. Her parents, Scott and Pammy Kramer of Chicago, knew they needed to make every moment count during Maddie’s eight months of treatment. Most importantly, they didn’t want cancer to prevent Maddie from being a kid.

“When we learned that we couldn’t control the course of Maddie’s disease, we decided to read, play, sing and dance,” explains Scott Kramer. “If you looked in Maddie’s hospital room at Lurie Children’s in downtown Chicago, there was music playing, streamers hanging, Disney characters everywhere and books on the windowsill. Maddie was dancing while cancering.”

After Maddie’s death in 2018, her parents started Dancing While Cancering – The Maddie Kramer Foundation. Their mission is to bring joy to the inpatient hospital experience for pediatric cancer patients. They donate Smile Packs to children at partner hospitals – including Lurie Children’s at Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital in Winfield, Illinois, where pediatric hematologists/oncologists diagnose and treat children with blood diseases and cancer.

“When Pammy and I walked into Central DuPage Hospital, it felt familiar and unfamiliar at the same time,” says Scott. “We were again reminded that these are not just halls of darkness. These are halls of hope. Halls of heroes. And we’re providing them with an emerald-like Smile Pack to accompany them on their yellow-ribboned road.”

Each green-colored Smile Pack contains decorations for the child’s hospital room, wireless speakers and musical instruments, including maracas and harmonicas. Every newly diagnosed pediatric cancer patient at Central DuPage Hospital will receive a Smile Pack.

“This is such a beautiful, impactful gift for our patients and their families,” says Dora Castro-Ahillen, child life services program manager for Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital. “We’re excited to partner with Dancing While Cancering and continue to share the mission of Maddie’s legacy.”

“Maddie’s journey is nothing short of incredible,” adds Scott. “We don’t feel a conclusion to her journey, but instead, we feel inspiration.”

To learn more about Maddie’s story or to support the nonprofit organization, visit

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