By Ruth I. Hoffman
Advocacy Action—Raising Money for Childhood Cancer Research
By Ruth I. Hoffman
Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease for children under 19 in the United States. While improvements have been made in the five-year survival rates of several types of childhood cancers, such as acute lymphocytic leukemia and Wilms tumor, there are many cancers that continue to have a dismal prognosis. Only about half of children diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia, hepatic tumors or certain gliomas will survive five years. Even worse, a mere 10 percent of children diagnosed with a brainstem glioma will be alive 18 months after their diagnosis.
Even when not facing a poor prognosis, pediatric patients continue to be treated primarily with chemotherapy drugs that were developed decades ago. These drugs are toxic, attacking healthy cells and cancer cells alike. Fortunately, the situation is poised to change, as researchers are starting to develop new therapies which target just the molecular changes that are unique to the cancer. Not only might these targeted therapies be developed for childhood cancers that continue to have poor survival rates, but these drugs might also do less long-term damage to children’s growing bodies.
Considering recent cutbacks in research funding at the National Institutes of Health, it is imperative that we mobilize our communities to promote this work. My organization, Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation, is one group that is working to fund research aimed at developing new drugs for children with cancer. We’ve learned that raising funds within your community can be as easy as turning a personal hobby into a fundraising event. Here are some suggestions to help you help our littlest cancer patients.
1. Think about activities that excite you. Focusing on your personal interests lets you turn fun into “fun-raising.” Whether you enjoy golfing, jogging, walking, playing tennis, rock climbing or the new craze of Zumba (a fitness program inspired by Latin American dance), all activities have the potential to be done with a group and turned into an event-a-thon—even relaxing in your rocking chair.
2. Identify your beneficiary. Decide on the institution to which you want to donate money raised by your event. Contact a patient organization, such as Candlelighters, or a local research hospital or university that supports childhood cancer research. Ask the development or fundraising office about the research it funds.
3. Keep the event simple and specific. Whether you host a fundraiser by selling cookie dough, launching a Zumba-thon or organizing a walk in your neighborhood, keep the event as simple as possible. Make the cost of participating accessible to as many people as possible. Tell potential participants specifically how much it will cost to join the fundraiser and include a simple explanation of how they will be helping the cause.
4. Talk it up. Your excitement to create a fundraising event will rub off on others: Helping people is contagious. Raising research dollars for children with cancer is something that people can get behind, so talk up your idea with people in your social network and get them excited to participate.
5. Know that you can make a difference. No amount of funds raised is too small to make a difference. And everyone has a skill or an interest that can be tapped to raise money, whether it’s exercising, making crafts, cooking or gardening.
Remember, kids can’t fight cancer alone. They need you to give them hope.
Ruth I. Hoffman, who holds a master’s in public health, is the executive director of the Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Candlelighters Childhood Cancer Foundation: www.candlelighters.org