18-Year-Old Cancer Fighter Gives Back by ‘Painting the Town Gold’

by Erinn Jessop, St. Baldrick's Foundation
May 9, 2017

When Todd Schultz shaved with St. Baldrick’s in 2013, he had no idea that just a few months later he’d be diagnosed with kids’ cancer. Read on for more about Todd’s diagnosis and how he’s raising awareness, plus vital dollars for research, as the founder of a St. Baldrick’s non-profit partner — Painting the Town Gold.

Todd Schultz is the 18-year-old founder of Painting the Town Gold

Todd Schultz is the 18-year-old founder of the St. Baldrick’s partner Painting the Town Gold.

Two weeks before his diagnosis, Todd Schultz was on the football field. The 13-year-old was a linebacker — strong, fit and ready to do what it took to keep the other team from stopping the ball.

He was lifting weights to get even stronger and acting as the umpire at kids’ baseball games. His hair was just growing back after shaving it with St. Baldrick’s in honor of a little girl he knew who was diagnosed with children’s cancer.

Todd was healthy, with his freshman year of high school just around the corner.

Then everything changed.

Todd thought that he had just gotten over a bout of the flu when he felt a pain in his side. It was his spleen, ballooning with white blood cells and on the verge of rupturing.

The pain got so intense that it landed Todd in the emergency room. A little while later, he was diagnosed with a rare type of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, called Philadelphia Chromosome positive ALL or PH+ALL.

“He was diagnosed at our local emergency room at about 10 o’clock at night on a Friday night,” said his mom, Vickie. “By 10 o’clock the following morning, so 12 hours later, he’d had a PICC line put in, a spinal tap done, one dose of intrathecal chemo and one IV dose of chemo.”

Todd Schultz in the hospital

Todd in the hospital on the day of his diagnosis.

During treatment, sometimes the teenager could barely walk across his hospital room because his feet hurt so badly. With the steroids, his mood could go from light to dark in a second and he was always hungry.

His mom remembered one night when Todd was so sick during a nasty course of chemo that he couldn’t sit up to vomit into a pail. His mom and a nurse had to hold him up. They were only three months into treatment.

“His platelets were so low that he literally had blood coming out of his gums, from getting sick, because it had put pressure on the gums,” Vickie said. “He just turned around and looked at me, crying, and said, ‘I can’t take it anymore, Mom. Please make it stop.’ That was just probably one of the most horrific moments. I think that was even worse than him being diagnosed.”

Todd’s treatment would last for three years.

Meet another courageous kid with PH+ALL — Ambassador Abby >

Todd smiles with his nurse

Todd smiles with one of his nurses after she shaved her head with St. Baldrick’s in Todd’s honor.

Now Todd is a healthy 18-year-old, with just days to go until his graduation from high school. But he’s got more on his plate than celebrating graduation and registering for college classes.

He’s also the founder of the organization Painting the Town Gold, a St. Baldrick’s non-profit partner based in his home communities of Edwardsville and Glen Carbon, Illinois.

The non-profit fundraises through various community events held in September, which is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and then donates the bulk of the proceeds to St. Baldrick’s.

Why St. Baldrick’s? Because research, specifically a drug called dasatnib, saved Todd’s life. Dasatnib is a drug that was first made available to kids with cancer through a St. Baldrick’s-supported trial.

“Dasatnib was the game-changer for Todd and St. Baldrick’s had a direct hand in the medicine that was used to treat him,” Vickie said. “That’s a big deal.”

Read about Ambassador Abby’s experience with dasatnib >

And it is truly a community and family affair. Painting the Town Gold’s board members include Todd’s former seventh- and eighth-grade teacher, his baseball coach and local parents of kids with cancer.

“I was tired of watching the kids I got to know die,” Todd said. “So, we decided to get a couple people we know from around town and put together a group and thought of ways we could raise money for pediatric cancer. We never thought it would be this big, where we’re raising hundreds of thousands of dollars. We really thought that we were going to raise $10,000 the first year.”

Todd gives a presentation about childhood cancer

Todd gives a presentation about childhood cancer.

So far, Painting the Town Gold has contributed $100,000 to conquering childhood cancers through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. Todd wants to take the non-profit’s reach even further and venture outside Edwardsville and Glen Carbon, and even outside his home state of Illinois.

Alongside St. Baldrick’s, Todd wants to paint the whole world gold, so all kids with cancer everywhere can get the treatments and cures they need.

“There’s not one of our kids or one of our families that hasn’t been touched by St. Baldrick’s and that’s one of the key things about Painting the Town Gold — we are research-based only. No money gets donated for anything other than research,” Vickie said. “What we all work for is raising the money to get the research, so that kids don’t have to go through this, because it’s horrible. It takes everything.”

Join Todd and let’s take childhood back from cancer together — fund kids’ cancer research today.

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