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"Stranger in the Woods" author treated successfully for skin cancer at U-M
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This article is part of the Cancer Center's News Archive, and is listed here for historical purposes.

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Books, videos to be given to kids getting chemotherapy during holiday week

Originally posted December 24, 2002

ANN ARBOR, MI - Children battling cancer at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center will get a little holiday cheer next week from a very special source: a best-selling children's author who was also treated for cancer at the U-M, and the cancer team that treated him.

During the week of Dec. 23, more than 60 children who have to interrupt their holiday celebrations for chemotherapy sessions at the U-M CCC will receive copies of the number one children's picture book on the New York Times Dec. 15 bestseller list, "Stranger in the Woods," its accompanying video and CD, and stuffed animals.

The gifts are being made possible by the U-M skin cancer team, led by Timothy Johnson, M.D. The team has successfully treated "Stranger" co-author and wildlife photographer Carl Sams for cancer for nearly a decade.

"Carl had told me he had written this book, but I didn't know how big a hit it was until my daughter read it at school and raved about it, and I saw it on the bestseller list," says Johnson. "The team and I felt it would make a great holiday present for kids who are going through so much."

Johnson and the 25 doctors, nurses and others who care for U-M skin cancer patients in the Cutaneous Oncology Program will bring the presents to the pediatric chemotherapy area of the U-M CCC on Dec. 23.

Sams credits the U-M skin cancer team with saving his life, and that of a close family member, by catching and removing several skin cancer lesions. "I want to do this," he says of his at-cost donation to the holiday gift effort. "They've caught everything I've had very early, and I'm grateful."

Sams and his wife, Jean Stoick, photographed and wrote "Stranger" in 1999 as a way to show children the magic of nature in winter. It's a heartwarming story of the reaction of woodland animals to a snowman that appears after a winter storm.

After it was first released in Michigan and Ohio, the authors donated thousands of dollars in proceeds to children's charities. But its national release launched it into the stratosphere of children's holiday books, and it has sold 800,000 copies to date. "Stranger" has appeared on the New York Times list twice before, in December 2001 and 2000, but never reached the top until now. It is listed at number two for the Dec. 22 list. It's also being used extensively in elementary schools to teach about nature.

A video to accompany the book was released recently, along with its soundtrack. Both were made by Robert and Laura Sams, Carl Sams' cousins.

Together, the book, movie and soundtrack have earned 19 awards, including the 2002 Early Childhood News Awards, the 2001 International Reading Association Award and the Ben Franklin Award. The movie was recently one of four finalists in the 2002 Wildscreen Panda Awards in Britain.

Note to editors: To cover this event, please call U-M Health System Public Relations, 734-764-2220.

Written by: Kara Gavin

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