Helen Keller once said “Alone we can do so little. Together we can do so much.” The Lilabean Foundation for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research (LBF) decided to take this advice and create one of the first giving circles in the pediatric brain cancer sector. Over the course of three months, a group of 15 supporters came together in a virtual setting each month to learn about the landscape of pediatric brain cancer and pooled their pledged funds to select a research project in alignment with LBF’s mission of finding more effective, safer treatments for childhood brain cancer. These 15 supporters pledged $1,100 or more that would go to one of two projects that would be presented by the lead researcher and the group would then vote on specific criteria including Reach & Impact, Innovation, Collaboration, Transparency, and Challenges.
In addition to hearing from the project researchers, the group had the opportunity to hear from experts in pediatric cancer, philanthropy, family members and more. Speakers included Dr. Brian Rood, Director of Clinical Neuro-Oncology at Children’s National, Anne Wintroub, Founder of Upside, expert in CSR and an impassioned connector of people and ideas, Dr. Samuel Blackman, Co-founder & CMO of Day One Biopharmaceuticals, and Dr. Cassie Kline, Director of clinical research in the department of Neuro-Oncology at CHOP. During the second session, the Giving Circle cohort heard presentations from Dr. Jessica Foster and Dr. Mateusz Koptyra of Children’s Brain Tumor Network (CBTN) on two projects. Before this, our partners at CBTN put together two very informative videos for the cohort to watch that gave an overview of the projects, but the real-time discussion with researchers allowed everyone in the group to dig deeper and ask questions about these projects. Both researchers and the projects they presented were very impressive and actively working to continue progress and make advances for pediatric brain cancer. While the vote was close, the group chose to pool their dollars to fund the CBTN Clinical Model Program which aims to better understand how animal models progress the discovery of effective treatments. Lead researcher Mateusz Koptyra said after the announcement of the Giving Circle funding “ I would like to express my sincere gratitude for the recognition and support that the Lilabean Foundation Giving Circle has provided me through this award. The financial assistance you've granted to my team will be of great help to us in our effort to develop quality models for pediatric brain tumor research. This award is an affirmation of the importance of our work toward the development of new clinical trials critically needed for children who are bravely fighting the battle with brain tumors. I assure you that the spirit of this award will be the cornerstone in our search for a better future for those kids. This gift will allow us to invest in equipment and support molecular characterization of our organoid models to ultimately use them in therapeutics testing. We will do our best to embody the mission that both of our organizations represent: to provide breakthroughs for every child every time, everywhere.”
The Lilabean Foundation was thrilled to gift $20,000 through our first giving circle and know that it will help to move the needle forward in an extremely important area of research with far-reaching impact. In addition to that, creating a space where supporters and those interested in making an impact in the fight against pediatric cancer could come together and support in a new and involved way was an incredible experience. One Giving Circle participant, April FitzGerald said about her Giving Circle experience “Our family has appreciated the opportunity to be part of the first LBF Giving Circle. The idea of collaborative giving is innovative and energizing! Raising funds for brain tumor research is is an enormous feat - it can feel too big to do alone and too broad to know where to best channel the funds BUT coming together with other members of the Giving Circle allowed us to feed off the energy of others who also had the shared goal of funding a specific clinical trial.”