childhood cancer

North Miami Beach's ‘Heroes Hangout' Reopens for Its Childhood Cancer Fighters

The space, which was closed temporarily due to the pandemic, has now reopened and continues to serve as a space for children fighting cancer

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Wearing a Spiderman-inspired outfit, down to his sneakers, 5-year-old Kayson Roman courageously shot imaginary spider webs into the air with his small fingers outside the Heroes Hangout in North Miami Beach. His imagination is still childlike and strong, despite his stage four neuroblastoma diagnosis.  

“Es muy duro ver que tu hijo esta conectado," his mother Araibis Diaz told NBC 6, saying that the hardest part is to see her son constantly connected to machines.

Kayson was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a cancer that develops from immature nerve cells, when he was 13 months old. Doctors found tumors behind his right eye and on top of his kidney, and cancer throughout his bones. The child has since undergone five surgeries and dozens of chemotherapy and radiation sessions, as well as two bone marrow transplants.  

“It’s hard, because I’ve seen my brother go through something painful. It’s kind of hard and sad,” said his 10-year-old sister, Katherine Castro. 

Fortunately, the family finds some relief from the hospital and doctor visits by going to the Heroes Hangout in North Miami. The space, dedicated only to child cancer fighters and their siblings, looks like a toy store with craft tables filled with anything a child could want to create something of their own. Kids also get to take home whatever toys they want at every visit.  

“Our kids are in the hospital weeks and months at a time,” said Mystic Force Foundation Founder Silvia Vanni.  

Vanni’s non-profit funds the Heroes Hangout with the help of financial donations. The location closed due to the pandemic, but recently reopened for one family at a time.  

“I named it the Heroes Hangout because Sal was my hero and all of these kids are our heroes,” said Vanni, who started the organization after her own son Salvatore was diagnosed with neuroblastoma in 2007 before sadly passing away in 2011, just a month before his eighth birthday.   

“People don’t understand what they go through. They are so resilient,” said Vanni.

This Saturday, about 20 police departments will participate in the foundation’s third annual Gold Ribbon Parade to raise awareness for childhood cancer. They will drive by Niklaus Children’s Hospital, Holtz Children’s Hospital and Joe Dimaggio’s Children’s Hospital starting at 10 a.m.  

“It’s wonderful and all of our officers want to be involved,” said North Miami Police Chief Larry Juriga. 

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness month and cancer is still the leading cause of death by disease for children under the age of 14, according to health experts. You can find out how to make toy or financial donations to the Mystic Force Foundation here.  

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