Levine Childrens

Child Health | 2 months ago

Best. Game. Ever. Two Levine Children’s Patients Enjoy a Dream Trip with the Panthers

What happens when Levine Children’s partners with NFL teams? A brother and sister have an experience they’ll never forget.

Carolina Panthers super-fans Elly Perlman, 9, and her brother Chase, 11, assumed they’d watch the November 9, 2023, game against the Chicago Bears on TV, as they do with all away games. But the day before, the kids and their parents boarded the team’s private plane, en route to Chicago. This was just the beginning of two days of surprises and fun for siblings who deserved plenty of both.

Elly and Chase are two Atrium Health Levine Children’s patients dealing with bigger battles than kids should fight. Elly is a pediatric cancer survivor who spent two-and-a-half years battling leukemia after her diagnosis at six years old. Chase has Crohn’s Disease, a chronic condition that inflames the gastrointestinal tract. They’ve spent a lot of time in Levine Children’s Hospital, proving how brave and tough kids can be. 

Levine Children’s wanted to do something special to give Elly and Chase time beyond the hospital to have fun and act like kids – and to introduce them to a new friend who could understand what they’ve been through. So, Levine Children’s, the Carolina Panthers and the Chicago Bears joined forces to create a dream experience for these kids to have a once-in-a-lifetime trip.

“We are grateful to have hometown teams who are willing to partner with us to make these types of experiences a reality for our deserving patients,” said Callie Dobbins, senior vice president of Atrium Health Levine Children’s. “Caring for these kids is about more than just making them feel better, it’s about getting them back to a place where they can feel like kids and look forward to fun things.”

An Awesome Day with a New Friend

After the Panthers’ plane touched down in Chicago, the surprises continued. The hotel had a Panthers-themed room ready for Elly, Chase and their parents. At their welcome dinner, the kids met another guest of honor who would join them at the game: Ava, an 11-year-old Chicago Bears fan from Homer Glen, IL. Ava was diagnosed with leukemia when she was two, and she spent 30 months as a little kid undergoing cancer treatments. Levine Children’s Hospital worked with Advocate Children’s Hospital in Park Ridge, IL, a partner hospital within Advocate Health, to introduce Ava, Elly and Chase. Friendship can be a special kind of medicine.

“For young patients who have come through cancer and are now facing life with new hope, learning to move forward after recovery is a crucial part of their care that we are committed to continuously supporting,” Dobbins said.

Ava, Elly and Chase became fast friends, chatting about football and making friendship bracelets after dinner.

The next day was the big day: game day! Elly, Chase and Ava wore the cool new merchandise that their teams gifted them: hats, jackets, sweatshirts, bags and beads. The Bears and Panthers gave the kids VIP access to the field before the game, where they met current and former players, including legends like Charles “Peanut” Tillman, Steve Smith, Mike Rucker and Luke Kuechly. Chase even got an autograph from his favorite player, Bryce Young. 

At kick-off, the kids and their parents went to a special private suite to watch the game together. Because it was a day just for the kids, dessert came before dinner. A dessert trolley visited the suite, and Elly, Chase and Ava got to choose anything they wanted: cake pops, ice cream, brownies, you name it. After that, pizza, wings and burgers came out. Chase and Ava spent the game discussing the on-field play, while Elly pointed out that no matter who won, the Panthers had something the Bears didn’t: cheerleaders.

“I had so much fun tonight watching my favorite team play and making memories with my new best friend Elly,” Ava said.

“I can’t wait for Ava to come visit me next so I can show her my hometown and hopefully watch another game together,” Elly said. “This has been the best, most ‘funnest’, experience. Thank you to Levine Children’s for bringing our families together and letting me meet my new friend!”

‘Fight through it’

When Elly went through cancer treatments, Chase stayed by her side, holding her hand when she was in a hospital bed. He even donated his own money to support cancer research. Later, after his Crohn’s Disease diagnosis, Elly became the one to support him when he didn’t feel well. 

During the trip to Chicago, Chase was asked what advice he had for other kids who are overcoming an illness. Chase shared the inspiration and strength he gained from the toughest person he could think of. It wasn’t Steve Smith; it wasn’t Bryce Young. It was his sister.

“I’d say to them, just keep fighting, keep doing what you’re doing and fight through it,” Chase said. “That’s what Elly did, and that’s what I hope everyone does when they’re in this situation.” 

Keep fighting, Chase says. Or, perhaps, keep pounding.

Learn more about Atrium Health Levine Children’s, which offers the region’s most comprehensive and compassionate children’s care.