As 17-year-old Carson Leslie fought cancer in his brain and spine at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas, his parents noticed a void in the hospital: there was no place for teenage cancer patients to hang out.
Almost five years after his death, the Carson Leslie Foundation built Carson’s Corner, a room for teenage cancer patients to connect.
Diagnosed when he was 14, Carson was in and out of Children’s for three years. As the playroom was filled with younger children and friends became busy with school, Carson spent most of his time at the hospital alone in his room.
“Those were very sad and lonely days for him,” said Carson’s mother, Annette. “It would have been good for his heart to have gotten out of his room.”
Once Children’s approved the proposal, the foundation started accepting donations. The room opened on May 21.
Complete with comfy chairs, two big-screen televisions, and a $100,000 endowment for other supplies, the space has given teenagers a way to get to know each other, Annette said.
“The medicine kills the cancer, but you’ve got to have a will to live,” she said. “The kids need a little encouragement.”
Children’s Child Life Team Leader Melinda Goff has seen Carson’s Corner facilitate friendships, she said. It even gave one patient a place to experience prom.
“Childlife specialists helped her make decorations, and she got fully dressed,” Goff said. “She got to invite a few friends, and they got to relax and dance or just sit around and talk. That was huge to her.”
The Carson Leslie Foundation has taken patients on trips to Rangers, Cowboys, and Mavericks games — in limos, no less.
“It’s always in a suite with food, and often at the Mavericks game we get to go down on the practice court,” Annette said.
The time away is good for the kids’ mental health. At one Cowboys game, Stephen Jones visited their suite.
“The boys liked the pictures with the cheerleaders more,” joked Carson’s father, Craig.
Now that Carson’s Corner is there, the kids have something to look forward to.
“We take them to these events, they have a great time, and then it’s back to normal life,” he said. “This gives them something they can do every day.”
Carson would have enjoyed talking with people his age who knew what he was going through, Annette said.
“We may not have known what he was doing for a minute or two, and that would have been nice,” she said.
With the teenage zone in full swing, the family is confident that it is Carson-approved.
“They took really good care of him at Children’s, and we just wanted to give something back,” Annette said. “He’s probably looking down with a wink and a thumbs up.”