Everyone knows that breast cancer awareness gets it’s own month: October. But for many other diseases, and especially for other forms of cancer, they end up sharing awareness months. In fact, according to this calendar of public health observances, September is Leukemia and Lymphoma Awareness Month, Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month, Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, AND Thyroid Cancer Awareness Month. Among other observances. It is my goal to touch upon each of these types of cancer during the course of this month, adding some diversity into my content before the inundation of all things pink in October. But first, I wanted to touch on possibly the most important cancer awareness month observance that’s happening right now: Childhood Cancer Month. And to mark this observance, I thought I would write the first of what will become the first of many “Spotlight On” posts on a local Atlanta organization called CURE Childhood Cancer and their month long fundraising and awareness campaign “Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time“.
About CURE Childhood Cancer
CURE Childhood Cancer was founded right in Atlanta in 1975, at a time when the five-year survival rates from childhood cancers were less than 10%. Seeing that something needed to be done, Emory University’s first pediatric oncologist, Dr. Abdel Ragab organized a group of parents of his patients and CURE Childhood Cancer was born. At the time of their founding, CURE’s goal was simple: to improve the care and quality of life – as well as survival rates – of children with cancer.
Through the work of CURE, and other childhood cancer organizations like them, that five-year survival rate stands at higher than 80% today. However, cancers that disproportionately and/or primarily affect children under the age of 20 (namely leukemia and lymphoma, nervous system cancers including neuroblastomas, gliomas, and medulloblastomas, and a whole host of bone and soft tissue sarcomas) remain the number one cause of death by disease for children (and number two overall after car accidents). A newborn male has a 1-in-300 chance and a newborn female has a 1-in-333 chance of being diagnosed with cancer before they are old enough to buy a drink in a bar. And 20% of those kids won’t live more than five years after their initial diagnosis. There is still much work to be done, and CURE Childhood Cancer remains a major force in this fight.
CURE Childhood Cancer’s Mission Statement: “CURE Childhood Cancer is dedicated to conquering childhood cancer through funding targeted research and through support of patients and their families.”
CURE Childhood Cancer’s Vision: “CURE Childhood Cancer believes that childhood cancer can be cured in our lifetime.”
Wouldn’t that be awesome?
CURE Childhood Cancer and Research
If there is one thing that defines me as a cancer advocate, it is my steadfast belief in the power of research to eradicate cancer once and for all. CURE Childhood Cancer believes that too, and it’s one of the reasons I’m proud to support them. During the 2010-2011 fiscal year, CURE Childhood Cancer raised approximately $2.4 million dollars. In that same time, CURE spent just over $1.2 million (that’s nearly half of what they raised!) on funding research (including both basic and translational research) and on fellowship training. That’s AMAZING.
CURE Childhood Cancer is currently funding work at four institutions: the AFLAC Cancer Center and Blood Disorders Service of the Children’s Hospital of Atlanta, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Emory University (my grad school alma mater!). This funded work covers 13 ongoing research projects that are designed to investigate a range of topics including almost every type of childhood cancer listed above, survivorship (that is, the long term effects of treatment on survivors after they are in remission), and a phase II clinical trial to improve stem cell transplants and decrease viral infections in pediatric cancer patients. While this work is all focused on childhood cancers, the true reality is that many of the advances made in adult cancers originated from work done on these same childhood cancers. Cancer research funding is truly the rising tide that lifts all boats. This work will help us cure not just childhood cancer in our lifetimes, but ALL cancers. You can read more about the individual projects being funded by CURE here.
In addition to the research that CURE is funding, they also fully fund two pediatric oncology fellows at Emory University each year. These fellows are individuals who have completed their medical school training and are currently receiving additional frontline training in how to conduct research in addition to their ongoing medical service. That means that not only is CURE helping to fund the research that these individuals are doing now, but that CURE’s impact will be multiplied as these individuals move forward in their careers. When I was at Emory, I worked alongside several neurology fellows and I can say from experience that they are some of the smartest, most driven people that I had the pleasure to work with. They desire to not just heal people, but to heal people better via better treatments and a deeper understanding of the diseases themselves. I can’t think of a better way for CURE Childhood Cancer to make an impact on childhood cancer survival rates than through their support of these fellows. You can read more about CURE’s current fellows here.
CURE Childhood Cancer Patient Support Programs
Beyond their primary focus on supporting research, CURE also goes above and beyond to support childhood cancer patients as well as their families and caregivers. CURE reaches out to patients and their families shortly after diagnosis and continues to support them throughout each stage of their journey. They offer emergency financial assistance for families in need so that they can focus on healing their families instead of their bills. Through their Open Arms and Brown Bag lunch programs, they provide meals and companionship to inpatient families and their caregivers. And through their Bereavement Care programs, including their annual Bereavement Weekend, they offer support and comfort to those who have lost their children far too young to this ugly disease. The breadth of support that CURE is able to offer in addition to the research they support is outstanding. Ultimately, together with their research funding, CURE spent 86.4% of the money they raised in 2010-2011 on mission programs. That stellar record earned them the Independent Charities Seal of Excellence and a four-star ranking on Charity Navigator. You can read more about CURE’s Patient Support programs here.
CURE Childhood Cancer Fundraisers
In addition to soliciting for donations from the public, CURE has three big fundraisers each year:
1. Lauren’s Run, an annual 5K run/walk that coincides with the CURE Childhood Cancer Annual picnic, which serves as a respite for families affected by Childhood Cancer. The 18th annual Lauren’s Run took place on April 29th, 2012. Stay tuned to this blog for updates on the 2013 run next spring. You can read more about Lauren’s Run here.
2. The Tribute to Quiet Heroes, a yearly luncheon that honors the mothers of children with cancer. The 2012 event, which will take place on September 29th at 11am at the Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead, will feature an extensive silent auction to raise funds for CURE. Tickets for this event are $150 and can be purchased at www.quietheroes.org. You can read more about the Tribute to Quiet Heroes here and here.
3. Kid’s Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time initiative, which is currently ongoing and which you can read more about below.
About CURE’s Kids Conquer Cancer One Day at a Time
Part of the reason I wanted to write this post at the beginning of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month was to draw attention to this fabulous awareness and fundraising initiative of CURE’s that was designed to give these young cancer patients a voice and a position of action in the larger fight against cancer. Each day for the month of September, CURE is highlighting two or three inspiring kids who have faced childhood cancer. As CURE says in their most recent annual report:
“Some of the featured children, or CURE’s Kids, are in the midst of their fight. Some have conquered the disease. And some have died battling this dreaded disease. Each day in September, we share the stories of two [or sometimes three!] featured children and ask the community to honor these brave warriors with their donations.”
If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed that each morning, I’ve been retweeting links that read something to the effect of “CURE Childhood Cancer honors _____” with a link. And if you’ve clicked on those links, you’ve been directed to blog posts highlighting the kids that are currently participating in this inspiring campaign. Today, those kids are Cole Carter, Abby Boone, and Elena and Olivia Tate. Tomorrow there will be new kids featured. And there will continue to be new kids each day throughout the month of September. You can read about all of them on the CURE Childhood Cancer blog. I encourage you to read and share the stories of these brave kids and if you can, please consider making a donation in their honor. Each family that is highlighted over the course of the month is challenged to raise at least $1000 for CURE’s research initiatives. If you can, please consider helping them reach their fundraising goals. And if you can’t swing it financially, please take a minute and help me spread the word about what CURE and these incredible kids and their families are trying to do. I can’t think of a better way to honor Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
Disclaimer and Important Links: I was not paid by nor do I work for CURE Childhood Cancer. I just think they’re a wonderful organization and I’m proud to support them. To read more about this fine organization and their great work, please visit their website, here. I particularly recommend CURE’s Annual Reports, the most recent three years of which can be found here. You can find their Facebook page here and you can follow them on Twitter (which I highly recommend) here. As I noted above, you can find their profile on Charity Navigator here. For more detailed information about the fiscal responsibility of CURE, you can find links to their financial records here. To learn more about childhood cancer in general, I highly recommend CURE’s white paper on the topic, which was the primary source for all of the statistics cited in this post.