Category: Research Road Update

Accessibility looks like THIS! 

Three years ago I met Kirsten Sinclair, who is the Director of Fundraising for Glasgow Children’s Hospital Charity. Her work supports The Royal Hospital For Children, which is the largest children’s hospital in Scotland. This week, two sets of families in Scotland will hear the words, “Your child has cancer.” Their nightmare will begin. Kirsten asked me 20 months ago if CKc could help her kick-start a capital campaign for those very children, which would include speaking to 500 women, TV interviews, and newspaper stories. The goal was to raise 1 million pounds with her efforts. 

Today, I met with Kirsten again; and, I got the report that they DID IT!!! They raised a million pounds! Today, she shared what they have done so far with the funds, and what their plans are for the future. Today, I had the honor of meeting a research nurse that has been funded by CKc. Today, I was told they can now offer children 20 different clinical trials! 

It states in CKc’s mission statement that we “fund innovative, ACCESSIBLE research”. What does accessibility actually mean? What does it look like? It looks like providing a research nurse and infrastructure which enabled a drug company from the US to bring an immunotherapy trial to the UK. It looks like training for their team in the US so that kids from Scotland and the rest of the UK don’t need to go there for the immunotherapy trial. Glasgow Children’s is the first group in the UK doing this. BOOM! Accessibility looks like THIS! 

All of this made me so proud to partner with them. It chokes me up thinking about our mission being carried out there, and how that speaks volumes for our commitment to it. Just watching the domino effect of what has happened since this partnership began blows my mind! I am not bragging on ME, but I’m FOR SURE bragging on what CKc donors, volunteers, scientific advisory board, governing board and our team has made possible. 

When CKc began, I said this quote at our first gala: 
”I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the water to create many ripples.”
– Mother Teresa. 

Ripples are now waves! I’m so proud to be part of this team, I could jump up and down! I’m so grateful to everyone in the beginning who believed in a crazy Scottish lassy and an American trial lawyer. And now their belief has grown to the cause, the kids, the team, and the mission. And beyond that, the list of believers has grown by leaps and bounds. We are grateful! We are in this to win it and winning means changing the status quo! Period! It means more survivors! It means better survivorship! We can do better for kids battling cancer. And we WILL do better! 

The Story Behind The Photo

Every photo has a story… This one is pretty unique and beautiful and sad and so powerful wrapped into one.

On April 1, 2017, Nolan King died unexpectedly after surgery. Nolan was 3. Nolan is a hepatoblastoma cancer warrior! A true real life hero! Nolan’s parents are photographed above with me and Dr. Elizebeth Beierle of UAB, a CKc funded researcher.

Now let’s backtrack to 2016 when I met the King Family! I met Nolan at Arnold Palmer Children’s Hospital – my Cannonball was having scans and Nolan was being pulled in his wagon by his Dad Tony, he was in chemotherapy treatment and was so sick, BUT what a beautiful smile he had. 

The last time I saw Nolan he and I played soccer with Richard Johnson our creative director at CKc. We laughed and played and I will forever remember Nolan that way!!!! He is my little soccer star! 

When Nolan relapsed Kelly his Mum called me and she said four words I will never ever forget! 

“He CAN’T die Melissa”

I promised Kelly he wouldn’t and that we would find a clinical trial together for relapsed hepatoblastoma and I would reach out to every researcher I knew and get Nolan what he needed. I believed that! That had been my experience with every Mum prior to Kelly! This time would be no different…I thought! 

It is painful to write these words… I failed! I couldn’t find anything… no trials for Nolan. 

On April 1 the night of CKc Gold Gala in Orlando my husband and co-founder Michael Wiggins with permission announced that CKc would fund a clinical trial for hepatoblastoma in Nolan King’s honor. 

Today we got to show the King Family what funding has done in basic research so that we may fund a trial. 

Personally, I made it my mission to keep our promise! Literally, hundreds of hours to get to this photograph and I would do it all over again for that little man I played soccer with just two years ago. 

I couldn’t keep my promise to Kelly but I can to Nolan and his two little brothers whom I love, Carson and Spencer! I promise that someday kids won’t die of hepatoblastoma! That someday soon there will be options for kids like Nolan! 

An Update from Research Road – Nova Southeastern University

One of the key pillars of our mission statement at CKc is to “educate for change,” and it’s truly a phrase repeated daily in our office. At the beginning of May, CKc executive director Melissa Wiggins and CKc education director Kelly King traveled to South Florida to further our mission at Nova Southeastern University (NSU) in Ft. Lauderdale. NSU is the largest private university in Florida with an enrollment of 25,000 students, of which sixty-five percent are pursuing an education in healthcare professions. For the first time this year, NSU is introducing an M.D. course for 50 students to provide a specialized track. Melissa and Kelly presented to many researchers and the Interim Chancellor of the Health Professions Division, Dr. Irv Rosenbaum, about the need for further research focusing on survivorship and the life-long side effects and illnesses associated with current treatments for fighting pediatric cancer. NSU doesn’t currently conduct pediatric research, however, CKc sought out this opportunity to educate with the aim of inspiring NSU to consider new and innovative research possibilities for pediatric oncology. Melissa highlighted how this research can positively impact generations of survivors to come. The trip was a success and we look forward to partnering with NSU for future education and research opportunities.

Research on the Road Update

Last week, Michael Wiggins, co-founder of CKc and Chairman of the Board, met with one of our funded researchers, Dr. Mario Otto, at the University of Wisconsin. Michael toured their Children’s Hospital and Medical Sciences facility and met with Dr. Otto to discuss the progress of CKc’s clinical trial grant, awarded in honor of Trevor Scheerer in 2016, involving novel immunotherapy stem cell transplant therapy for rhabdomyosarcoma. They also discussed future research opportunities, funding Young Investigators, and the collaboration and sharing of data among pediatric cancer researchers. CKc is pursuing novel, alternative approaches to treat childhood cancer. Funding innovative research is our mission!

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