Parents Perspective

How You Can Make a Difference for Childhood Cancer With One (1!) Dollar

Maybe you feel the way I do when I read about children struck by cancer: upset, and powerless. But here's a better way to focus: Take a minute to donate, even something small. (Keep reading for a rewarding lesson in how donating really helps!)

How You Can Make a Difference for Childhood Cancer With One (1!) Dollar 34913
That's Natalie at age 3, helping to draw her own blood.

While working with the Parents team on our article about childhood cancer, "Your Child Has Cancer...," now online and coming soon in our November issue, a few acquaintances admitted to me they wouldn't read the story. "It's too sad," they said, guiltily, apologetically. But that's part of the problem with averting our eyes from pediatric cancer—this important cause quite literally gets overlooked.

Childhood cancer is sad, and research is underfunded. As our story reports, roughly just 4 percent of the National Cancer Institute's annual cancer budget goes toward childhood cancers, even though they are the leading cause of death in children after accidents. Nearly 16,000 children are diagnosed with pediatric cancer every year.

Here's what I hope: that parents do read our story, as we were privileged to feature the inspiring, remarkable Gorsegner family, and their daughter Natalie's two-year battle with ALL (acute lymphoblastic leukemia). There's an accompanying moving 5-minute video, which documents their journey in photos from Natalie's photographer mother—and fundraising superhero—Andrea Verdone Gorsegner. Today, Natalie is in the maintenance phase of her treatment, and just started preschool.

Whether you do or you don't read and watch, though, you don't have to feel powerless. You can do something. You can even enroll young children's participation in helping.

How? Donate something—anything—to this underfunded cause. Feel silly donating a small amount? Don't! Natalie's parents ask for even just one dollar towards funding for pediatric cancer research. (You might ask your child if she has something in her piggy bank she'd like to donate, too.) You can check out Andrea's Facebook page, "Infinite Love for Natalie Grace," to see photos of Natalie, who loves to pick up the mail, happily clutching single dollar bills donated from around the country. All donations go to the nonprofit Arms Wide Open for Childhood Cancer Foundation; you can find the Gorsegners' site here: willyousendusadollar.com. More worthy organizations and ideas for raising fundraising and awareness, some that don't even require money, can be found at the end of our story.

Still with me? Here's a neat piece of history.

There's a good precedent for everyone pooling their dollars, together, towards research for better treatments, and a cure. It's happened before, with great success.

Polio.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was struck with polio—the contagious, viral disease that held a long reign of terror over this country and primarily struck children, crippling and/or killing them—he was a 39-year-old athletic father to five. He was racing his sons home after a full day of sailing and swimming when he started to feel unwell, and went to bed. Roosevelt, permanently paralyzed from the waist down, never walked unassisted again. (I have never felt such gratitude for the modern miracle of vaccines wash over me as I did when I watched this affecting 3-minute video from The Roosevelts about FDR's contraction of polio.)

The man who would be elected president four times and who would, from his wheelchair, steer America out of the Great Depression and to victory in World War II had a vision: He founded something called the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis. He had a simple notion, novel for its time: If every person donated just one dime, a cure for polio could be found. As this article points out, "In the early 1950s, the privately supported NFIP spent ten times as much money on polio research as the National Institutes of Health, which were tax supported." (Sound familiar?) That fundraising paved the way for the development of Jonas Salk's polio vaccine in 1955, soon making polio—a disease around since ancient times—a nightmare in America's past. The NFIP was renamed for FDR's brilliantly simple, effective fundraising mission: the March of Dimes, which continues its vital work today towards ending premature birth, birth defects, and infant mortality. When the country wanted to commemorate FDR's memory after his death, the dime was chosen—it's why we see his face on that coin today.

Imagine what we could do for childhood cancer, if everyone gave a dollar? How wonderful it would be if someday we could say about childhood cancer what we now say about polio, a disease nearly eradicated from most of the world.

Cancer: something children used to get.

One Family's Experience with Childhood Cancer

Image of Natalie courtesy of Andrea Verdone Gorsegner.