Thursday, January 16, 2014

Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation - 2014 Raffle

Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation raised more than $25,000, for the second consecutive year, for pediatric cancer research!

Last year the Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation raised more than $25,000, for the second consecutive year, for pediatric cancer research! The first raffle of 2014 is underway. The drawing will be held on January 30. The grand prize is the 1995 Beckett magazine, which was published after Jeff's first championship. It recaps his racing career from the start thru the 1995 season. Jeff graciously autographed the title page of the publication. Additional prizes include diecasts, hats, rare publications, and some other treats for JG fans.

Tickets are $5/ea. and all proceeds benefit the JGCF for pediatric cancer research and treatment.

Jackson Panzarello

The birthday party invitations are going out this week to homes across the Coachella Valley in California. The soon-to-be 12-year-old boy has been asking for a golf party to celebrate his birthday in late February. Besides watching auto racing on the weekend, he loves golf and spends most of his spare moments on the course just steps from his front door.

He started middle school last fall and has a lot of new friends, including his first girlfriend. On this particular day, he's texting with a friend from school, chatting with his dad about last night's Los Angeles Clippers game, and procrastinating about starting a school project. Because, after all, that's simply what 6th graders do.

There's one detail that I failed to mention: The above scenario is complete fiction. The birthday party celebration is a false echo. It is what Jackson Panzarello's life should have been like today. Those are the experiences he should be having.

Pediatric cancer claimed his life in June 2012 when he was 10 years old.

He was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme just 16 months earlier. It is the most common and the most aggressive malignant primary brain tumor.

A few weeks after his first flu-like symptoms began, his parents sat in a cold medical office in Los Angeles and were told two haunting words "It's terminal". Jackson fought the disease with every fiber of his being. He didn't lose the battle against cancer. We did. We lost the battle. In the end, we failed Jackson the same way we've failed thousands of other children.

We failed because we haven't prioritized pediatric cancer. We failed because we could only offer Jackson a toxic mix of chemotherapy and radiation, an absolutely archaic mixture for a young child. It is akin to shooting an arrow at a moving target in a fancy house. There's a chance you can hit the bulls eye, but you can also do lasting damage

Jackson's parents made the most difficult decision of their lives in May 2012. After medical tests revealed that Jackson's cancer had spread beyond his brain and into his spine, his mother, Lisa, posted the following Facebook status update:

"Together with our hospice team, we have decided to forgo any further chemo. It's obvious the cancer has come back with a vengeance and we have chosen to keep him home where he is surrounded by love, peace and calm."

Lisa's words reflect the moment that so many childhood cancer advocates dread when families are out of viable treatment options. Her words reflect how we, as a society, failed our children. I've often told people that cancer is the worst thief in the world because it's not content with stealing everything you hold dear. It brings you to your knees with unbearable pain. It stole a lifetime of memories from Jackson. It robbed his family of watching him grow into the person he would have become. Cancer leaves an unopened box of haunting questions in its wake.

Since Jackson came into my life, I've spearheaded fundraising efforts that have raised more than $60,000 for pediatric cancer charities. To raise money to fight the disease, I've participated in 5K runs, organized community kickball games, and made dozens of trips to the post office to send out raffle prizes. Every fundraising effort is guided by Jackson's memory and the promise of a research breakthrough.

Ultimately, this is about the future. It's about your children's future -- and their children's future. It's about ensuring that pediatric cancer will not impact them the way it has impacted so many families. The dollars you donate today will provide safer and more effective solutions to give children a fighting chance against the disease.

It is illogical that Jackson's life was claimed by a disease that we will someday have the power to cure. Pediatric cancer has been underfunded and deprioritized for too long. Every day, 36 children are diagnosed with cancer. Every day, 7 children are lost to the disease. It should not be viewed as "somebody else's problem." It is our problem. And it falls on our shoulders to solve it.

The solution starts with greater awareness and funding for childhood cancer research. It starts by supporting the organizations whose sole mission is pediatric cancer research. This is not about funding adult cancer research in the hopes it will trickle down to children. This is about prioritizing childhood cancer research to give our children a fighting chance against the disease

This is why I support The Jeff Gordon Children's Foundation and their research team at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health in Indianapolis. Together, we'll see the day when pediatric oncologists no longer utter the words "its terminal" and can instead reassure families with the words "It's curable".

During Jackson's fight against the disease, his family adopted the motto "Fight On", the fight song of the University of Southern California where his parents attended college. In memory of Jackson and the thousands of children who have been lost to cancer, we will Fight On until safer and effective cures are readily available. That is my promise to his family and friends in the Coachella Valley, and to every child and family impacted by this insidious disease.

Thank you, Fight On

False Echoes

Written by Larry Graff – Childhood Cancer Activist and Fundraiser

January 2014

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