Most kids have tried setting up a lemonade stand on the street, hoping passers-by will stop to buy a glass of lemonade for 50 cents — but it is unlikely they sold lemonade to fund research for pediatric cancer.
On April 18, the UC Santa Cruz Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering (CBSE) will run a lemonade stand on Science Hill to raise money for pediatric cancer research, giving UCSC students, staff and faculty a chance to help affected children while enjoying a glass of lemonade between classes.
“Even if you are not personally affected by cancer, or pediatric cancer more specifically, it’s all around us. We all know someone who knows someone,” said CBSE administrative assistant Jordan Trepte. “It’s really important to help the community and help those who need the help.”
Pediatric cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under 15 in the U.S., with approximately 250 children dying from cancer each day, according to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, an organization intended to benefit childhood cancer research. Despite the numbers, less than 5 percent of government funding for cancer research is put toward childhood cancers.
In addition to lemonade, cookies and ice cream will also be sold. The funds go directly to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation. The organization started when Alexandra Scott, a young child diagnosed with neuroblastoma — a cancerous tumor that develops from nerve tissue — wanted to raise money for other children affected by cancer. Scott died at age eight, but the organization continues to work toward her dream of stopping childhood cancer.
“It’s grown very big — over 300 different research projects have been funded because of this and millions of dollars have been donated,” Trepte said. “It’s a great organization.”
Katrina Learned works for CBSE, and has been personally affected by pediatric cancer. At two months old, her daughter Aurora was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, the most common cancer of infancy. In a building adjacent to the courtyard where the lemonade stand will be set up, Learned will give a talk titled “My Child has Cancer!?”
“I want to give a glimpse of what it’s like to have a child with cancer so people will be moved to donate money and support other children with cancer,” Learned said.
This glimpse includes the shock and surprise that took over when Aurora was first diagnosed, and the worries for her daughter’s future.
“I didn’t know a 2-month-old could get cancer,” Learned said. “Will she have a normal life? Will she live to her first birthday? How are we going to get her through this?”
Over the course of three months, Aurora had three blood transfusions. What made the journey bearable was the hope they would get through it, as her cancer has a 95 percent survival rate, Learned said.
Fortunately, Aurora’s cancer was treated and she no longer has lasting effects such as hearing loss, heart damage or secondary cancer that can result from treatment. Though Aurora came out of treatment healthy, many children are not as lucky. Two-thirds of cancer patients who are children will have long lasting side effects as a result of treatment, according to Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.
Melissa Cline, associate project scientist for CBSE and one of the organizers of the event, was inspired by Learned to get involved with pediatric cancer research and neuroblastoma research.
“Cancer research is important to all of us. The statistics show that 40 percent of us are going to have cancer at some point in our lives. That’s close to 1 out of 2,” Cline said. “Compared to adult cancer, childhood cancer research is underfunded. Childhood cancer teaches us valuable information that can be applied to adult cancer.”
Cline will also help sell lemonade at the event and will speak about the genomics of childhood cancer.
Originally the goal was to raise $2,000, but because of the support and encouragement of many, that goal has been raised to $10,000.
“These kids deserve the funding they are not getting,” Learned said. “It is such a small amount and these kids have whole lives ahead of them. We want people to show the government that this is important to us and that these kids deserve cures and more funding.”