Blake Shelton Founds Oklahoma Cancer Research Program to Honor His Cousin
Blake Shelton has announced a new venture to help children fighting pediatric cancer. On Monday (Dec. 10), Oklahoma University's Children's Hospital unveiled the Blake Shelton Cancer Research Program, which the country superstar established in honor of a personal connection he has to the disease.
According to People, Shelton's cousin, Aspen Van Horn, received treatment for neuroblastoma -- a type of nerve tissue cancer, and the most common kind of cancer found in infants -- at the university's Jimmy Everest Center. She was only five months old at the time.
Aspen's parents say that having such a high-quality facility nearby was a crucial element of her treatment plan. "We are so thankful that Children's is close to us and that they have the best pediatric physicians to care for Aspen," the child's mother, Shayla, said the year before Shelton announced the new program. "We didn't have to leave the state to receive the care Aspen needed. It would have been very hard for us to leave the state for that long. We were able to go home as we needed, and family members were able to visit and support Aspen without traveling long distance."
Thanks to the care she received at Oklahoma University's Children's Hospital, which included blood transfusions, chemotherapy and surgery to remove the bulk of her tumor, Aspen celebrated her third birthday in 2018. Having witnessed first hand how important it is for those battling cancer to have top-notch care close at hand, Shelton is now hoping to help other children going through the process.
The country icon has previously offered support of the hospital's work. In 2016, while in Oklahoma City, Okla. for a show, Shelton donated $600,000 to the Jimmy Everest Center and praised the facility from onstage.
"They don't turn any kids away," he said to the audience during the 2016 performance. "You come in there, you have a problem, they don't turn anybody away, so I thought, 'That's a place that needs some money.'"
Meanwhile, Shelton is planning his 2019 Friends and Heroes Tour, which is scheduled to kick off in Oklahoma City on Feb. 14. In preparation, Shelton has been releasing a series of classic country cover tracks; most recently, he offered his interpretation of Eddie Rabbitt's "Every Which Way But Loose."
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