Less than a decade ago, a group of local families whose lives were touched by pediatric brain tumors launched a nonprofit organization in hopes of raising money to find a cure and increase awareness about the disease.
In that time, their signature event, Think Fit for Kids, has now raised $2 million for A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure.
On Sunday afternoon, families once again flocked to Club Fit in Briarcliff Manor for this year’s renewal of Think Fit for Kids, enjoying games and activities and snacks while remembering why they were there. The facility was packed for the two-hour event that featured basketball, martial arts, a GaGa tournament, Zumba, an obstacle course and a variety of games.
“This grassroots event that start nine years ago in a gym in northern Westchester, to have this kind of an event is huge,” said Kim Gilman, one of the founding members of A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure.
Last November, the organization merged with the North Carolina-based Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF), the largest child brain tumor foundation in the United States. Despite the change, the mission remains the same.
Bill Tiller, the president and CEO of PBTF, said his organization is thrilled to infuse the passion and drive that the volunteers from A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure bring to the cause. In turn, PBTF’s wider advocacy and fundraising efforts can enhance what the local volunteers started.
Tiller was quick to point out that A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure was so successful that it’s often best to get out of their members’ way while giving the participants the support that they need.
“We have been and are very committed to preserving and safeguarding what was special with their organization and still giving that autonomy to them to do what they know is right in their disease space while also assimilating them into our larger organization so they can take advantage of our fundraising apparatus,” Tiller said. “So far it’s been such a really good partnership because we’ve been wise enough to let them do their thing.”
He explained bringing A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure into the PBTF orbit has been mutually beneficial because they have been focused on low-grade tumors while the larger organization has been spent much of its energy and resources battling high-grade tumors. PBTF also provides a wider range of services including emergency financial assistance, a toolkit for newly diagnosed families, brain tumor family camps and bereavement support.
Gilman said for families who are faced with caring for a child with a brain tumor they need all the hope and support that can be mustered.
“So raising $2 million, 100 percent goes to research, which will find the cure for pediatric brain tumors, especially with how this disease is impacting our local community,” Gilman said. “There’s really no alternative than to do this.”
Among A Kids’ Brain Tumor Cure’s top accomplishments was partnering with two other New York area foundations to provide the seed money for clinical trials through the launch of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s PLGA Research Program. There are also projects underway at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Johns Hopkins Medical Center, Massachusetts General Hospital, University of Pittsburgh Children’s Medical Center and Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center.
Despite the serious nature of the work, Sunday afternoon was a day for fun.
“Pediatric brain cancer really lacks sponsors more than any other cancer,” said Armonk resident Anthony Trimarchi about why he came with his child. “I’ve been so impressed with everything Kim has done and it’s such an important cause.”
Gilman pointed out that without the help of Club Fit, which has hosted Think Fit for Kids since its inception, the progress would not have been possible.
Joe DaRonco, Club Fit’s experience director, said it’s become a fixture on the club’s annual calendar.
“It’s a great feeling to have this here and partner with such an important organization for such a great cause,” he said. “We’re so happy to help.”
There were also more than 30 members of the Horace Greeley High School football team who also participated. Head Coach Joe Kearns said he sent out one e-mail asking his players to participate on the day of the event and in fundraising. They contributed close to $1,000.
“They’re just great kids,” Kearns said. “They loved giving back, they have big hears and they come from good families.”
For more information about the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation, visit www.curethekids.org.