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Audubon Aquarium Hosts Heart of Passion
“Everyone knows cancer can be one of the hardest experiences a person faces,” says Savannah Solomon, Tulane masters of business administration graduate and founder of Heart of Passion. “This experience is particularly difficult for teenagers, who lack the naïveté of children and the self-assuredness of adults. Teens are learning their independence, and cancer can really complicate that process.”
No one understands that better than Solomon, who was diagnosed with cancer at ages 12, 15 and 18. As she began to miss out on the normal teenage experience due to her rigorous treatment schedule, she went looking for answers. Finding that there were few support networks especially for teens with cancer, she created one herself. Heart of Passion was born, and ten years later the group has helped hundreds of teenage cancer survivors learn to enjoy life and forget their disease, even if only for a few days at a time. Patients have the chance to be “normal” and independent – and parents have the chance to let them without worry. Local young adult leaders benefit as well.
The most unique aspect of Heart of Passion’s Red Carpet Retreats is the “for teens from teens” approach. Since last October, twenty-one students from Metairie Park Country Day School and Isidore Newman School have partaken in HoP’s first young adult leadership program. Through this program, students are taught service leadership lessons focusing on compassion, initiative, and communication. To implement these lessons and to provide real-world business experience, Heart of Passion walked these students through the process of fundraising for, planning, and executing their very own Red Carpet retreat. Every dollar, every minute on the itinerary, and every detail for the patients was imagined and carried out by teenagers.
Based out of their posh accommodations at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel, these teens will forget their troubles as they enjoy days filled with Rock ‘N Bowl, swamp tours, an Paris Parker Spa salon day, and a dance at Mardi Gras World. The week’s events center on a scavenger hunt-style day of challenges; teams will be whisked around the city in limousines as they stop at various iconic locations to complete certain tasks. To kick off this cornerstone event, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, a facility of Audubon Nature Institute, will welcome the group for a special before-hours breakfast with the sharks and aquarium tour.
While the event provides a wonderful distraction, cancer is a serious matter for these young survivors. Teenagers often face some of the toughest cancer treatments and many even show signs of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD) at some point after diagnosis. It is for this reason that Heart of Passion has decided to put its roots down in New Orleans, a city that knows how to rise above tough times and enjoy the good things in life.
“After completing my education in New Orleans and experiencing first-hand the positive approach people take to life here, I knew this would be the ideal base of operations for Heart of Passion moving forward,” says Solomon. “Our goal is to provide hope to teenagers with cancer. I can think of no better place for them to learn to feel comfortable in their own skin, forget their troubles and finally feel at home again.”
Since its founding in 2002, Heart of Passion has hosted ten “Red Carpet Day” retreats for teens with cancer in Atlanta, Dallas, and New Orleans, serving over 400 patients in those regions. Heart of Passion’s priority is to create a unique experience for this age group. The event is coordinated by a group of 11th and 12th grade students from Isidore Newman High School and Metairie Park Country Day School.
For more information on Red Carpet Day or Heart of Passion, visit heartofpassion.net or facebook.com/HeartofPassion.
Public Relations Manager
Audubon Nature Institute
6500 Magazine Street
New Orleans, LA 70118