HOUSTON, Oct. 25, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- At an event designed to bring warmth and joy to children facing cancer, Aflac, the leader in voluntary insurance sales at U.S. worksites, yesterday delivered My Special Aflac DuckTM to The University of Texas MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital in Houston, Texas. My Special Aflac Duck, designed by Sproutel, is a social robot that uses medical play, lifelike movement, and emotions to engage and help comfort kids during their cancer care. Tuesday's first-ever delivery to the MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital follows more than 18 months of child-centered research conducted with children, parents and medical providers at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta.
"Delivering My Special Aflac Duck to the more than 15,000 children with cancer each year across America has been our mission since this program's inception, and we are grateful for our partners at MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital for bringing us one step closer to reaching that goal," Aflac Chairman and CEO Dan Amos said. "This is a major investment by Aflac to provide a coping mechanism for children with cancer, and the entire Aflac family, our employees and independent agents are beyond pleased to provide these courageous children and their families some happiness when they need it most."
To date, Aflac has invested more than $3 million for the research, design and delivery of My Special Aflac Duck across the nation. At today's delivery event, attendees were treated to a demonstration of the robotic duck by Aaron Horowitz, chief executive officer of Sproutel and inventor of My Special Aflac Duck, showcasing how it will help comfort children and serve as a tool for health care professionals to use with their patients. After the demonstration, children and their parents were sent on a fun scavenger hunt, finding clues and visiting various locations at the hospital, eventually leading them to the discovery of their very own My Special Aflac Duck.
"Every time we introduce My Special Aflac Duck to a new hospital, we are creating memorable moments for children, their parents and, of course, the entire Aflac family," The Aflac Foundation, Inc. President Kathelen Amos said. "By expanding the role of our beloved Aflac Duck to a tangible, innovative companion for brave and special children as they go through his or her cancer journey here in Houston and across the country, every Aflac employee and sales agent experiences a wave of pride for having helped a child. We are making an impact on such an important cause."
As part of its ongoing Aflac Childhood Cancer CampaignSM, Aflac will expand distribution of My Special Aflac Duck to hospitals across the country, providing a duck to any newly diagnosed child, ages 3-13, free of charge. The cost per unit to Aflac is approximately $200.
In addition to My Special Aflac Duck, Sproutel has created a companion app available on the Apple App Store and Google Play. The app can be downloaded on smartphones and tablets free of charge. Additional features of My Special Aflac Duck include:
- Emotional expression: Seven RFID-enabled feeling cards help children communicate; the duck acts out a given feeling when that feeling card is tapped to its chest.
- Medical and nurturing play: A chemotherapy port allows children to mirror their care experiences via play, giving them a sense of control during the process. The duck's no-cost companion app allows users to "bathe" it, "feed" it and give it "medicine" via augmented reality.
- Music, dancing and nuzzling: The duck dances when music is played. Customizable sounds include gentle waves, wind and a farm.
- Breathing and heartbeat: The duck produces a naturalistic heartbeat and deep breathing, which caregivers can incorporate into calming routines and exercises.
- Batteries and accessories: Provided so it is ready to use out of the box.
- Convenience: A removable skin, which can be washed to adhere to hospital hygiene standards.
"We applaud the role that Aflac has played in the fight against childhood cancer and their latest commitment to provide My Special Aflac Ducks to children diagnosed with cancer," said Kevin Long, director of Pediatric Operations at MD Anderson. "We are grateful to be a part of a remarkable program that is bringing the children being treated for all types of cancer the opportunity to play, engage and connect in new ways throughout their treatment journey."
"Corporate responsibility has been a key pillar at our company for more than two decades, and it is an honor and privilege to expand upon our commitment to pediatric cancer treatment and research by introducing My Special Aflac Duck to the children and families of Houston," Aflac Senior Vice President of Shared Services Eric Seldon said. "We are eager to continue placing this special duck into children's arms and accelerating a nationwide movement to help ensure no child has to face cancer alone."
Since 1995, Aflac has contributed more than $127 million to the pediatric cancer cause, including more than $500,000 donated each month by 17,000 independent agents licensed to sell Aflac products. The funds are committed directly from their monthly commission checks. To see My Special Aflac Duck in action and to learn more about this important cause, please visit AflacChildhoodCancer.org.
When a policyholder gets sick or hurt, Aflac pays cash benefits fast. For more than six decades, Aflac insurance policies have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the United States, Aflac is the leader in voluntary insurance sales at the worksite. Through its trailblazing One Day PaySM initiative, for eligible claims, Aflac U.S. can process, approve and electronically send funds to claimants for quick access to cash in just one business day. In Japan, Aflac is the leading provider of medical and cancer insurance and insures 1 in 4 households. Aflac insurance products help provide protection to more than 50 million people worldwide. For 12 consecutive years, Aflac has been recognized by Ethisphere as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies. In 2018, Fortune magazine recognized Aflac as one of the 100 Best Companies to Work for in America for the 20th consecutive year and included Aflac on its list of World's Most Admired Companies for the 17th time. Aflac Incorporated is a Fortune 500 company listed on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AFL. To find out more about Aflac and One Day PaySM, visit aflac.com or aflac.com/espanol.
Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.
Media contacts –
Aflac – Kristen Fraser, 706.580.3813 or KFraser@aflac.com
MD Anderson Cancer Center – Katrina R. Burton, 281.804.2148, KBurton@mdanderson.org
Aflac analyst and investor contact – David A. Young, 706.596.3264 or 800.235.2667, FAX 706.324.6330, or firstname.lastname@example.org