Free My Special Aflac Duck for young cancer patients arrives in Northern Ireland

Aflac Northern Ireland, a subsidiary of Aflac Incorporated, has joined forces with the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity to help comfort local children with cancer.

In a groundbreaking initiative for Northern Ireland, Aflac NI has partnered with The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity to make the My Special Aflac Duck available to cancer patients three years and older free of charge.

Aflac, a technology and cybersecurity innovation center in Belfast, has 130 employees and is growing. This initiative broadens the company’s commitment to making My Special Aflac Duck more accessible to children in cancer treatment.

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Naomi Spence, community play specialist at The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity, Sarah Milliken, leader of Talent & Culture Aflac Northern Ireland, Fay McEvoy (age 6) and Keith Farley, managing director Aflac Northern Ireland

Since 2018, Aflac, in partnership with more than 350 participating hospitals and cancer-related organizations, has distributed more than 12,000 robotic ducks to patients in the US and Japan. In 2018, Time Magazine named My Special Aflac Duck one of the 50 best inventions of the year.

For over 20 years, Aflac has used its iconic mascot, the Aflac Duck, to promote its products, services and corporate culture in both the United States and Japan.

Designed and created by Sprotel, the robot uses naturalistic movements, quack, nuzzling and calming play. The Bluetooth-enabled duck has a range of groundbreaking features, including emoji cards that can be pressed to its chest and trigger a response that mimics how the child feels. It has an accompanying app that enables further medical play to help children deal with often scary and uncomfortable cancer treatments. The removable plush exterior is machine washable, making it easy for parents to maintain.

Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos, said: “We are excited to bring My Special Aflac Duck to children in NI so that they can find some comfort during what is often a very difficult time for them and their families. In the US, Aflac has a 26-year commitment to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in Atlanta, including more than $155 million in contributions for improvements in treatments and advanced research. In Japan, we made additional contributions, including creating facilities in different regions of the country called Aflac Parents Houses, which provide a comfortable place for families to stay while their children are being treated for cancer. We are proud to expand our groundbreaking My Special Aflac Duck program to help children and families in Northern Ireland cope with this terrible disease.”

In 2019, Aflac NI opened its doors as Aflac’s newest global technology and cybersecurity innovation center. This partnership with The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity symbolizes Aflac’s history of social responsibility in the communities it serves and its commitment to NI, its employees and local communities.

Aflac NI managing director Keith Farley, said: “As a growing member of the NI business ecosystem, we feel a strong need to engage with the community and demonstrate our commitment to the families where we live and work. By My Special Aflac Duck and bring comfort to children and families living with childhood cancer in NI through our partnership with the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity, we have been warmly welcomed since the opening of our technology center in Belfast, we are confident that this partnership will make a real difference in the lives of local children who have been diagnosed with cancer.”

Founded in 1984, the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity exists solely to support the work of the Children’s Cancer and Hematology Unit at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and their families. The department cares for children with cancer and blood disorders up to the age of 16, with about 50 new patients a year. It is the only facility in Northern Ireland to provide specialist cancer treatment for children.

Naomi Spence, community play specialist at The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity, added: “Without support, our charity would not exist to continue our vital work, and we greatly appreciate the significant contribution and dedication Aflac NI is making at this time . We are especially excited for those children who will benefit from the joy and friendship that My Special Aflac Duck will bring into their lives during their treatment and care.

“This is a groundbreaking partnership, bringing new innovation and practical help and support to our children, families and staff, and I look forward to expanding the rollout in the weeks, months and years to help children with cancer in NI can take advantage of and quickly enjoy the real benefits of this important partnership.”

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