Childhood Cancer Research Funded by McKenna Claire Foundation and St. Baldrick’s Foundation Partnership

by Kristine Wetzel
September 9, 2013


By partnering with St. Baldrick’s, the McKenna Claire Foundation can “fund research that is close to our heart, while also benefiting from the resources of St. Baldrick’s to help the greater good,” says McKenna’s mom, Kristine.

This October, the McKenna Claire Foundation will celebrate its second anniversary. “Celebrate” doesn’t quite seem like the appropriate word, as starting a foundation to honor your deceased child isn’t typically on anyone’s list of things they wish to achieve during their lifetime.

We knew from the beginning that with a diagnosis of Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), the prognosis for McKenna was dismal. We promised her that we would do everything within our power to help her “feel better.” Because we had amazing friends who had turned over every rock and researched every DIPG doctor and research facility in the world, we knew we had done our very best for our daughter, but that modern medicine had failed us. Not for lack of caring or lack of heart amongst the doctors, but for lack of funding which limited research and the possibility of answers.

As she took her last breaths, we promised McKenna we would do everything in our power to fight in her name and ensure that no other child or family would suffer as she did, as we do.

Donating McKenna’s tumor to provide opportunities to develop cell lines and advance research was our first step to fulfilling the promise we made to our girl, and in fighting back against the tumor that took our child. But, for us, it wasn’t enough.

Knowing that the need for funding was great, we decided to help raise money that would allow researchers to do what they do best. We wanted to provide them with the means to find cures.

Our first choice funding was obvious, the place where McKenna’s cell line was developed, Monje’s lab at Stanford University. Dr. Monje’s research is part of a collaborative world-wide effort of DIPG experts. But as we became more involved with the childhood cancer foundation world, we found that we wanted to be advocates not just for DIPG, but for all children affected by cancer.

We connected with other cancer parents and families who had started foundations. We had conversations about the lack of awareness and lack of funding. We bemoaned the fact that the need for new and effective therapies was so pressing, and yet there was no “clearing house” in which to find professionally reviewed research which didn’t require small foundations to somehow amass their own medical advisory boards.

We talked of a place where we could “crowd source” funding to make the contributions of smaller foundations more effective, but without losing the connection to our children and the communities who continue to support them.

And so, we reached out to St. Baldrick’s Foundation. By being able to work with their medical advisory board to choose and fund a specific research grant from reviewed proposals that dovetail with research being done in the field of DIPG, we are able to do everything I promised my McKenna.

We continue to fund research that is close to our heart, while also benefiting from the resources of St. Baldrick’s to help the greater good.

Because we can trust the St. Baldrick’s Foundation’s scientific review process, we can focus on raising funds, not assembling medical advisory boards.

By working together, we can make choices that can change that reality for others.

By uniting our names, our resources, and our voices, we will make the difference and provide hope to the children and families that follow in our footsteps.

Read more about the grant funded in part by the McKenna Claire Foundation.

Interested in partnering with the St. Baldrick’s Foundation to fund research? Let us know.