Taking a stand

Augusta takes the fight against pediatric cancer quite personally

Seems silly, on its face, to try to fight cancer with a lemonade stand.

 

But 4-year-old Alexandra “Alex” Scott of Pennsylvania did just that in the year 2000 — and raised an eye-popping $2,000 in one day.

A year after she died in 2004 of the cancer she’d been diagnosed with before age 1, her parents took over. Today, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation has raised over $140 million. They’ve used it to help fund nearly 700 research projects, to help parents of patients in their travels, and to just raise awareness of pediatric cancer — which, frankly, doesn’t get nearly its due.

Over $1 million has gone to Georgia Cancer Center at Augusta University, where Dr. Ted Johnson and colleagues have worked on brain tumors and embarked on a national clinical trial for kids with cancer.

Just as beautifully, Augusta kids and adults have gotten behind Alex’s Lemonade Stand — literally — to keep raising money. The medical district’s outlet of Columbia, S.C.-based daycare company Big Blue Marble Academy — named for the spinning orb we all inhabit — has participated in the event, which runs through next Friday.

As a column in tomorrow’s Chronicle Opinion section by area Rep. Rick Allen notes, “Each year, 15,780 children in America are diagnosed with cancer, the leading cause of death by disease for children older than infancy in the United States.”

Yet, remarkably, only about 4 percent of National Cancer Institute funding goes to pediatric cancer.

As Allen notes, he is a co-sponsor of H.R. 1231, the Research to Accelerate Cures and Equity (RACE) for Children Act — which would, among other things, require drug companies to include children where possible in the development of new cancer treatments. There are some 900 drugs in development.

RACE passed the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously, as part of the FDA Reauthorization Act of 2017, and awaits action in the Senate.

Augusta has its own stories of childhood cancer. In 2009, Turner and Tara Simkins’ nearly 7-year-old son, Brennan, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia. Following four torturous bone marrow transplants, he has been in remission since 2011 — beating galactically tall odds, but only through the relentless determination and tested faith of the Simkins clan and the inconceivable dedication of doctors, nurses and staff at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.

Turner Simkins later compiled a book, Possibilities, with real-time narratives of his family’s grueling journey.

And, of course, this region is so blessed to host Augusta University’s 154 bed Children’s Hospital of Georgia — with the highest-level neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, and a staff of critical care physicians and nurses who provide their own inconceivable care for some 1,000 critically ill little patients a year.

Then there’s the nonprofit Ronald McDonald House Charities of Augusta, which houses families of critically ill children in its still-new 23-bedroom house in the shadow of the children’s hospital.

So, while the inspiring lemonade stand may have started with an amazing little girl in Pennsylvania, this is personal for us here in Augusta.

This is family.

 

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