Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Holiday visit from former patient brings gifts, smiles

HOLIDAY SMILES: From left, Carina's friend Rachel Cook, MGHfC patient Cody Blais and Carina

During Carina Comer's annual gift delivery to the young patients of the Francis H. Burr Proton Therapy Center, much like they would with Santa Claus, the children there tell her how old they are and what they'd like to receive. But Comer has one-upped Old Saint Nick -- she presents them with gifts on the spot.

Comer has been donating gifts to the Proton Center during the holidays for the past seven years. She raises money by selling baked goods during the summer in Niantic, Conn., where her family's beach house is located. These aren't just any baked goods, however: Comer has been a passionate baker and chef since the age of five. Now 17, Comer is currently a student at the College of Culinary Arts at Johnson and Wales in Providence, R.I.

This year, Comer raised $2,200, and on Dec. 18, she brought cartloads of fun gifts -- and some delicious cookies -- to the pediatric patients at the Proton Center. The children were thrilled to see her and to receive the specially selected presents, each with a heartfelt message attached.

GENEROUS GIFTS: Carina with her donated gifts at the Proton Center

The visits are particularly special to both Comer and the children she shares her gifts with -- Comer was once a cancer patient herself. She first came to MassGeneral Hospital for Children in 2000 when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor for the second time. Fortunately, her cancer was successfully treated and has not returned since.

"I was so thankful for the care I received here, and I remember having gifts given to me while I was being treated," Comer says. "I wanted to give back."

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