Family gives back with Bags of Smiles

Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this post, Dr. Rustad’s first name was misstated. It is Dr. Dave Rustad. 

This is a guest post by Aric and Kristen Burma, parents of 2-year-old Zachary Burma, a patient at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Zac Burma shows off his silly bands.

Just before Zac turned 1, he came down with a high fever that we initially thought was teething. But it didn’t go away. His pediatrician ordered an X-ray, which showed a spot on Zac’s lung. Worried he might have pneumonia, his doctor sent us to Children’s.

After taking antibiotics, Zac began feeling better. However, as we celebrated Zac’s first birthday, the spot remained. Zac underwent a CAT scan. Before we even pulled out of the parking lot after the test, we received a call from our pediatrician that we needed to return to Children’s to see an oncologist.

We returned and met Dr. Nancy McAllister, who delivered scary news that our perfect and healthy young son needed surgery to remove a tumor. She assured us that it was completely treatable.

Dr. Dave Rustad performed the surgery and removed the entire mass, which was a Stage I Neuroblastoma. Fortunately, no cancer cells had spread and the tumor was completely removed.

Everyone at Children’s treated us so kindly. Our most memorable experience was when Kelly, a nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), visited Zac when he woke after being sedated so she could see him smile. He had been sedated when she was his nurse. All the doctors, nurses and staff are the most amazing people we have met, and we’re truly thankful!

After our experience, we knew we had to give back. We sold raffle tickets at work to raise money to make “Bags of Smiles” – filled with games, arts and crafts, toys and more for kids who are being treated in the Cancer and Blood Disorders Clinic. Our mission is to provide children battling cancer and other serious illnesses a chance to be a kid and smile.

On Aug. 18, we’ll host our first golf tournament to raise money for Children’s patients and Bags of Smiles. Please visit to learn more.

Leave a Reply