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

Aflac NI brings its award-winning robotic duck to the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity

By Claire Cartmill
Thursday, 7th October 2021, 6:00 am

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

In a ground-breaking initiative for Northern Ireland, Aflac NI, has collaborated with The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity to make available its My Special Aflac Duck for cancer patients three years of age and older, free of charge.

A Technology and Cybersecurity Innovation Centre based in Belfast, Aflac has 130 employees and is growing. A this initiative broadens the firms commitment to make My Special Aflac Duck more accessible to children in cancer treatment.

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

For more than 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 Sproutel, the robot uses naturalistic movement, quacks, nuzzling and calming play. The Bluetooth-enabled duck boasts a range of ground-breaking features, including feeling emoji cards, which can be pressed against its chest, generating a reaction that imitates how the child is feeling. It has a corresponding app that further enables medical play to help children cope with often scary and uncomfortable cancer treatments. Its removable plush exterior is machine washable, enabling easy care for parents.

Aflac chairman and CEO Dan Amos, said: “We are pleased to bring My Special Aflac Duck to children in NI so that they can find some comfort in what is often a very difficult time for them and their families. In the U.S., 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 cutting-edge research. In Japan, we have made additional contributions, including creating facilities in various 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 ground-breaking My Special Aflac Duck program to help children and families of Northern Ireland cope with this terrible disease.”

In 2019, Aflac NI opened its doors as Aflac’s newest global technology and cybersecurity innovation centre. This partnership with The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity symbolises 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 introducing My Special Aflac Duck and helping bring comfort to children and families facing childhood cancer in NI through our collaboration with the Children’s Cancer Unit Charity, we are returning the warm welcome that we have received since opening our technology centre in Belfast. We’re 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 Haematology Unit at the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and their families. The Unit cares for children with cancer and blood disorders up to the age of 16, with around 50 new patients attending each year. It is the only facility in Northern Ireland that provides specialist cancer treatment for children.

Naomi Spence, community play specialist at The Children’s Cancer Unit Charity, added: “Without support, our charity wouldn’t exist to continue our vital work, and we deeply value the significant contribution and commitment being made by Aflac NI at this time. We’re particularly excited for those children who will benefit from the joy and friendship My Special Aflac Duck will bring to their lives during their treatment and care.

“This is a pioneering partnership, which brings new innovation and practical help and support to our children, families, and staff, and I look forward to extending the rollout over the coming weeks, months and years ahead so that children with cancer in NI can benefit and quickly enjoy the real advantages of this important partnership.”

For more information about My Special Aflac Duck in NI, please visit AflacNI.com/My-Special-Aflac-Duck

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