ORLANDO – On a beautiful Saturday morning, there was music playing at the Lake Eva Amphitheater, and kids got up on the stage, laughing, dancing and playing together.
Just an hour earlier, nearly 600 people also showed up, and walked around Lake Eola for a cause: to raise money for those children.
The turnout was so good, in fact, that it exceeded expectations.
“Our goal was $60,000 and we raised $80,000,” said Molly Piveral.
“I’m overwhelmed,” added Maria Bisceglia. “I did not expect this. It’s just been incredible.”
If there was one thing that established a somewhat more sobering mood at an otherwise upbeat event, it was the realization of why they had come together in the first place: to raise money for hospitals that sponsor children’s oncology groups, with clinical trials for cancer research. The event that brought them together was The CureSearch Walk, organized to raise money not only to help those hospitals, but also to make up for dwindling funding at the federal level.
“Funding has been flat for the past five years, and this year we got a 10 percent cut,” Piveral said. “This research cannot stop. We have kids who are two weeks old who are diagnosed with cancer.”
Piveral and Bisceglia are organizers behind The CureSearch Walk, which was billed as “Conquering Children’s Cancer Together.”
“CureSearch started about seven years ago when the federal money started to dwindle,” Bisceglia said. “This is our third walk.”
“We started organizing this in December,” Piveral said. “It funds 187 hospitals around the country that have children’s oncology groups.”
When the federal government began slowing down its contributions to these clinical trials, Bisceglia said, there was only one other place to turn: to the public.
“The federal money is drying up for everything,” Bisceglia said. “The money is just not there. If we don’t fund this ourselves, they can’t open new studies. The progress stops. Some of the money is used centrally by children’s oncology services, getting them enrolled in clinical trials.”
On the positive side, it would appear the public is ready to help, said John Lehr, one of the organizers of the walk, who said turnout on Saturday was impressive.
“I think it’s terrific,” he said. “We had more than 600 registered walkers turn out. It’s great support. Because of the turnout, we expect to keep doing this every year.”
That’s a hopeful development, Lehr said, because it has otherwise become more difficult getting the money so desperately needed for clinical research trials in the search for a cure to children’s cancer.
“The money is being raised from private donors more than ever before,” he said. “It’s in the American spirit. I think we can raise more money from the private sector.”
That’s true, he said, since after years of having to put up with no funding increases for this cause, this year the federal government actually cut back on this research.
“The 10 percent cut was huge,” Lehr said. “If we get cut even further, it will begin to affect the science that we do, and the children’s oncology group. The work that is being done has been largely responsible for the survival rates among children with cancer.”
And that work, he said, is having an impact.
“Today, we have an 80 percent survival rate,” he said. “By giving to the Cure Search, you’re giving money to most of the local hospitals like Arnold Palmer and Florida Children’s Hospital that do this work.”
Those who missed the walk but want to make a contribution to this cause have an opportunity all year long, Bisceglia said.
“They can go to CureSearch.org anytime to make a donation,” she said. “We’ll be here next year, looking for a cure.”
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