Boredom Busters is dedicated to celebrating the life and legacy of Sasha Burakow

“The Original Boredom Buster”

Sasha Burakow
Sasha Burakow

We like to call Sasha Burakow “The Original Boredom Buster.” As a high school student, Sasha volunteered at hospitals near her home in Northern Virginia. She took pride in being a self-described “anti-procrastinator”, demonstrated by her long list of achievements throughout high school. Sasha was a semifinalist for the Intel Science Talent Competition, captain of her lacrosse and field hockey teams, a straight-A student, and a Citizen’s Award recipient from the Fairfax County Police for pulling 9 year-old twins from a smoldering vehicle. Sasha was very close to her family and friends. Her high school guidance counselor remembers her as “a human dynamo.” Nick Burakow, her father, said “she packed more into her 19 years than most people did in a lifetime.”

In 2003, during her Senior year in high school, Sasha formed a friendship with a classmate’s younger brother, Michael McCauley. That year, Michael was diagnosed with a brain tumor which required surgery followed by an extended period of immobilization in a hospital bed. Michael’s mother, Marcie, recalls that Sasha was the first person by his side. “She spent endless time sitting in his hospital bed playing video games with him while he had to lay still.” It wasn’t until much later that Sasha’s family found out that she spent three days with young Michael in the hospital and even kept in touch with Michael after leaving for her Freshman year at Duke University that fall. 

Duke University

By the end of her first semester at Duke, Sasha had made a large group of friends and began volunteering at Duke Medical Center nurturing neonatal babies in the Intensive Care Unit. She was looking forward to winter break and the road trip North with good friends Dave Krauss and Charlie Benzyk. Sasha was bringing back autographs from the Duke basketball team for Michael McCauley who was still struggling with the aftermath of his surgery. It was on the four hour road trip that Sasha began to suffer from what felt like a migraine. Nearly home, Sasha’s condition got worse and she was rushed to the Inova Fairfax Hospital where doctors declared that she had suffered a brain aneurysm. Five days later, on December 17th, 2003, Sasha passed away surrounded by her family and friends.

Continuing Sasha’s Legacy

The shock of Sasha’s tragic passing impacted people in every sphere of her life. It was during that time that Dave and Charlie met the McCauley family and learned of the special relationship Sasha had with young Michael. The McCauley’s had recently begun to collect toys, games and comfort items to stuff into shoe boxes for the other pediatric patients at the hospitals Michael frequently visited for treatment. The boxes were called “Boredom Busters” and were becoming very popular with patients and staff. By containing the gift of fun, these care packages helped many, many hospitalized kids get through their stay – much like Sasha did for Michael! The McCauley’s still actively donate Boredom Busters boxes to hospitals to this day.

To learn about the founding and evolution of Boredom Busters, please continue reading on our History page.