Children’s Hospital patients get creative for Vanderbilt Men’s Basketball team as part of Coaches vs. CancerFeb. 3, 2022, 3:29 PM
by Christina Echegaray
Ariana Robinson, 14, loves family and animals, appreciates the vibrancy of life and believes in hard work.
Logan Hall, 13, is an avid sports fan and athlete and is passionate about a good motivational speech from his coaches before a football or baseball game.
Both Ariana and Logan have acute myeloid leukemia (AML), cancer of the blood and bone marrow.
While separated by only a few hospital rooms on the same floor at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt, the two teens have never met. Yet, both find inspiration to help them in their cancer journeys by drawing from the people and passions they love most.
They shared some of that inspiration with members of the Vanderbilt University Men’s Basketball team heading into their game on Jan. 29 versus the Georgia Bulldogs.
In honor of Coaches vs. Cancer, an awareness and fundraising initiative of the American Cancer Society (ACS), Ariana and Logan designed special edition Nike Air Force One shoes with those same passions. VU basketball coach Jerry Stackhouse wore the shoes during the Jan. 29 game.
“The awareness Coaches vs. Cancer creates around the country is vitally important as we all work together in the fight against cancer,” Stackhouse said. “We are honored that Ariana and Logan provided our program with personally inspired shoe designs. They have a talented team supporting them at Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital. The creativity and positive energy displayed by Ariana and Logan continues to be an inspiration to our Vanderbilt program and many others.”
For 25 years, high school and college basketball coaches across the country have joined the fight against cancer in various formats in collaboration with ACS. One such initiative, “Suits and Sneakers,” is a weeklong nationwide event where basketball coaches wear suits and sneakers during games. The “Suits and Sneakers” games support and raise awareness of childhood cancer research and programs.
Stackhouse wore one shoe from each of Logan’s and Ariana’s designs.
On the left shoe, Logan colored in the sections of the sneakers in Children’s Hospital primary colors, using green, red, blue and yellow. Within in the Nike Swooshes, he wrote motivational phrases, including “When times get rough, you got to get stronger” and “stay strong.”
Diagnosed with AML in October, Logan has had multiple rounds of chemotherapy. After his next round of chemotherapy, he will have a stem cell transplant. He welcomed the distraction and the chance to inspire the Commodores on the court.
When asked what message he had for Stackhouse and the Vanderbilt basketball team, Logan said, “Go win!” Win they did, with an 85-77 Commodores victory over the Georgia Bulldogs.
Ariana, who was diagnosed with AML on Jan. 5, designed the right shoe. She learned she had cancer after she had not bounced back from a bout of flu in early December.
Blood work and tests confirmed she had AML. A very active and involved teen, Ariana, who plays clarinet, flute, saxophone, xylophone and guitar, was looking forward to trying out for honors band in January. She never anticipated she would instead be at the start of her cancer journey.
She has tried to draw inspiration and strength from the things she loves — her family; her younger sisters, 12, 9 and 5; animals, especially horses; and the stuffed animals and messages from her very large extended family that fill her hospital room.
As she set out to design her Coaches vs. Cancer shoes, she decided to draw on the same inspirations and comforts that have helped her cope over the last few weeks. “I was scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me,” Ariana said.
On her shoe, she put the name of her large extended family, Zaragoza, on the shoe along with her “AML leukemia” diagnosis. Inspired by a cow print blanket in her hospital room, she colored cow spots on the shoe, adding some bedazzled jewels along the sole.
About the experience she said, “This was fun!”