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Aflac Expands Distribution of Award-winning Social Robot to Help Kids With Sickle Cell Disease

By: 3BL Media

My Special Aflac Duck®, given to children with cancer since 2018, adapted for kids with challenging inherited blood disorder

SOURCE: Aflac Incorporated


COLUMBUS, Ga., February 23, 2022 /3BL Media/ -- Sickle cell disease impacts more than 100,000 Americans, primarily affecting African Americans and many who are children. Seeing the effects of this disease and the need to help provide comfort to those who suffer from it, Aflac – a leading provider of supplemental insurance in the U.S. and committed ally to children with cancer and blood disorders – created a new version of its award-winning My Special Aflac Duck and has begun distribution to children who have this painful disease.

"We are excited to expand the My Special Aflac Duck program, particularly as the sickle cell community is underserved and the disease itself is underfunded. This terrible disease often robs children of a 'normal' childhood, causes great pain, and can even lead to premature death," said Aflac Executive Vice President and General Counsel Audrey Boone Tillman. "My Special Aflac Duck has done an incredible job helping provide comfort to children with cancer, and we are confident that it will provide the same reassurance to kids with sickle cell. These families need help, and if Aflac can help provide some measure of relief, we are ready to take on that mission."

The social robot was originally designed to help children throughout their journey with cancer, and to date Aflac has delivered, free of charge, more than 13,000 ducks to children with cancer. With 1 in 365 Black children born with sickle cell disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control, Aflac took on the challenge of devising ways to modify the My Special Aflac Duck to include accessories and a corresponding app that serve the special needs of kids with this illness.

In 2020, Aflac partnered with My Special Aflac Duck creator Sproutel, a patient-centered research and development company that initiated new research aimed at adapting My Special Aflac Duck for children with sickle cell, including a pilot program conducted at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, involving parents, children and health care providers. The research-based adaptations include a special blanket for each child's My Special Aflac Duck, as children with sickle cell disease are often susceptible to temperature changes. Their duck's blanket doubles as an art canvas and comes with a water-soluble marker that kids can use to draw on the blanket. It also includes new medical play accessories that are specific to the needs of kids with sickle cell. An enhanced digital experience includes adaptations to the interactive app that focus on art therapy and issues like hydration to help teach young patients how to stay healthy while managing their symptoms.

"The inclusion of My Special Aflac Duck for our patients with sickle cell disease is a welcomed addition to our program," said Dr. Tamara New, medical director for the Sickle Cell Program at the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Egleston Hospital. "Children with sickle cell disease deal with a unique set of circumstances, including a stigma that can impact mental and emotional health as well as physical health. My Special Aflac Duck is a companion that encourages them to do the things that they might not always want to do, but that they need to do from a health care perspective."

My Special Aflac Duck is distributed through The Aflac Childhood Cancer Foundation Inc. Doctors, nurses, child life specialists, social workers or other health care professionals and non-profits can order them for children with sickle cell disease or cancer by going to To find out more about Aflac's commitment to helping children with sickle cell disease, go to

The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is host of the largest sickle cell program in the U.S., serving nearly 2,000 unique patients annually, and was instrumental in the research that resulted in adaptations to My Special Aflac Duck to meet the specific needs of kids with sickle cell disease. In 2021, it was ranked No. 7 by U.S. News and World Report's annual rankings of children's hospitals. Since 1995, Aflac, its employees and independent sales agents have contributed more than $157 million to the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, including specific contributions to support the sickle cell program.


Aflac Incorporated (NYSE: AFL) is a Fortune 500 company helping provide protection to more than 50 million people through its subsidiaries in Japan and the U.S., where it is a leading supplemental insurer by paying cash fast when policyholders get sick or injured. For more than six decades, insurance policies of Aflac Incorporated's subsidiaries have given policyholders the opportunity to focus on recovery, not financial stress. In the U.S., Aflac is the number one provider of voluntary/worksite insurance products. Aflac Life Insurance Japan is the leading provider of medical and cancer insurance in Japan, where it insures 1 in 4 households. In 2021, Aflac Incorporated was proud to be included as one of the World's Most Ethical Companies by Ethisphere for the 15th consecutive year. Also in 2021, the company was included in the Dow Jones Sustainability North America Index and became a signatory of the Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). In 2022, Aflac Incorporated was included on Fortune's list of World's Most Admired Companies for the 21st time and Bloomberg's Gender-Equality Index for the third consecutive year. To find out how to get help with expenses health insurance doesn't cover, get to know us at or Investors may learn more about Aflac Incorporated and its commitment to ESG and social responsibility at under "Sustainability."

Aflac herein means American Family Life Assurance Company of Columbus and American Family Life Assurance Company of New York.

Media contact – Jon Sullivan, 706-763-4813 or

Analyst and investor contact – David A. Young, 706-596-3264, 800-235-2667 or


Tweet me: Aflac expanded distribution of My Special Aflac Duck to help comfort and soothe children with #sicklecell. Learn more about @aflac’s commitment to helping children here:

KEYWORDS: Aflac, NYSE: AFL, The Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center, My Special Aflac Duck, The Aflac Childhood Cancer Foundation Inc.

Two African American children ( a boy and a girl) are seated, smiling and holding an Aflac duck.

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