Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and RPA Introduce Immersive Augmented-Reality Experience to Help Emotionally Support Kids During Cancer Care

May 17, 2018


Santa Monica, CA, May 17, 2018 — A cancer diagnosis is scary for anyone, but for a child it can be even scarier as they encounter complex terminology and daunting procedures. The Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF), the world's leading nonprofit dedicated to families facing a child's brain tumor diagnosis, leading independent ad agency RPA and award-winning creative production partner Tool of North America are launching an immersive augmented reality (AR) experience starring the Imaginary Friend Society. This fictional group of characters first made their debut last fall in 20 animated short films that explain different facets of cancer care to children.

The new, immersive AR experience can be used on demand when kids need extra emotional support. There are limited resources during pediatric cancer care that young patients can actually relate to and understand. Using a simple mobile app, kids and medical professionals can bring the Imaginary Friend Society characters to life in any environment. These characters offer words of encouragement and hope to boost confidence during difficult times.

"It's incredible that we can use AR to give kids a pep talk before a procedure or when they're struggling," said Robin Boettcher, President and CEO of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation. "Each day, 13 children and teens are told they have a primary brain or central nervous system tumor. The PBTF is committed to helping them thrive. One way to do this is by giving kids confidence and courage when they need it most."

A PBTF survey completed earlier this year reveals that across the board, anxiety is the largest issue for children diagnosed with brain tumors or other cancers.

Dr. Mark Krieger, chief of neurosurgery at the Children's Hospital in Los Angeles said, "This AR experience can transform the experience of kids while they are being treated at the hospital just before MRI scans, shots or surgery and help them find some cheerful reassurance when they are anxious or overwhelmed by their feelings."

The PBTF is teaming with child-life specialists, social workers and medical staff at hospitals across the U.S. to bring the AR experience to their interactive patient care.

Launch of the Imaginary Friend Society—Fall 2017

Last September, the PBTF and RPA unveiled 20 animated short films that explain every facet of cancer these kids face, such as " What is an MRI?", " Feeling Sad," " Finding Out You Have Cancer," " Blood Transfusions" and " Returning to School." Two new films have just been added to the collection: " Staying Friends with Your Friends" (Wolf & Crow / directed by Matt Berenty )and " Memory Loss" (Nexus Studios / directed by Smith & Foulkes).

Krieger said, "We started having the Imaginary Friend Society on the GetWellNetwork at the hospital, so every kid has a little touch-screen TV over their bed that can pull up different types of content. We've been amazed at seeing how the kids really gravitate towards this."

The Imaginary Friend Society is now a permanent fixture in select hospitals around the country, has been translated into multiple languages and is available in several countries.

"We want to help as much as we can. The videos were just the first step. Now we're leveraging the characters in a way that is even more vital to kids, at a time when they need them most. This truly makes the Imaginary Friend Society an ally in the fight against cancer," said Jason Sperling, SVP / Chief, Creative Development.

This pro-bono, global film project came to life thanks to many talented animation, music and sound-design partners from around the world. Each partner took on a different cancer-related topic with a script written by RPA and advised by the PBTF and produced their own unique imaginary friends to bring the topic magically to life, resulting in this inspired collection of work.

About the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation More children die of brain tumors than any other cancer. As the world's leading nonprofit dedicated to children and teens with brain tumors, the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation's mission is to care for families along their entire journey, cure every childhood brain tumor and help survivors and families thrive. Since 1991, the PBTF has funded more than $30 million in research to increase survivorship, improve quality of life and ultimately eliminate pediatric brain tumors. The nonprofit also provides emotional support, resource referrals and other free services to families. The PBTF's national events include Ride for Kids, Starry Night and Vs. Cancer fundraisers. Join the PBTF in its mission to Care. Cure. Thrive. at

About RPA RPA, headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., is a leading independent full-service advertising agency whose mission is to create ideas and experiences that put "People First" within a culture that empowers individuals and teams. RPA has a proven track record of building brands while building businesses into positions of category leadership, and has been rewarded with many long-term client relationships because of it. RPA's client list includes American Honda, ampm,, ARCO, CoStar Group, Farmers Insurance Group, La-Z-Boy and Southwest Airlines. For more information, visit