Grass-roots Effort Helping to End Childhood Cancer

Every 14 hours, a child is diagnosed with neuroblastoma (Nb), the most common cancer in infants. The solid-mass cancer creates tumors in children, and accounts for 15 percent of all pediatric cancer deaths. The survival rate with standard chemotherapy is less than 30 percent. Even if children do survive, the relapse rate is an astonishing 50 percent. Though there is no cure for neuroblastoma, that fact can and will soon change if Beat Nb has anything to say about it.

As part of Beat Childhood Cancer, the Beat Nb cancer foundation is the primary research focus working on therapies and technologies. Beat Childhood Cancer includes as a team of scientists, doctors and advocates to improve the lives of children and their families affected by cancer.

Beth Dexheimer is in a group of 30 different volunteers that are raising funds as part of Team Beat Nb in the Lansing area. She spoke about the local 501(c)(3) nonprofit, which set a goal of $5,000 to be donated to Beat Nb to aid in the research for those battling childhood cancer.

“We are a team of passionate volunteers that decided that we needed to try to make a difference, help where there is a desperate need and to try to bring light to those fighting a battle that many of us really don’t know much about,” Dexheimer said.

Beat Nb Executive Director Kyle Matthews spoke about Beat Nb and Beat Childhood Cancer’s connections within the state. 

“Beat Nb helped to found the Beat Childhood Cancer global consortium, where all funds raised by Beat Nb are directed,” Matthews said. “Although research and trials are carried out in 45-plus institutions, the main laboratory for the consortium is based right here in Michigan, at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. Chaired by Dr. Giselle Sholler, the group works closely with Michigan State University – in fact, the lab is housed in the MSU Grand Rapids Research Center.”

Dexheimer’s involvement with the group came from two friends who had personal connections with cancer. Before moving to Lansing, she had worked in pediatric cancer fundraising and heard of Beat Nb’s innovative research. After speaking to Matthews, she knew that was the right foundation to focus her fundraising efforts. The team raised four times the initial goal – reaching $20,000 for Beat Nb research through individual team member’s fundraising and donation-based fitness classes, bake sales, euchre tournaments and local business events. 

Throughout the events, Team Beat Nb’s members not only raised funds but also learned lessons from the inspirational volunteer work. Dexheimer spoke about facts, figures and personal revelations her teammates experienced. 

“There is a huge lack of funding for pediatric cancer research,” Dexheimer said. “On average, childhood cancers receive 4 percent of the annual budget of the National Cancer Institute. Research is truly being funded and resources for families is being provided by foundations such as Beat Nb. Without the efforts of those like us, those foundations would not be able to do the critical work that they are doing.”

Team members also learned that little acts of kindness can go a long way and add up to meet a huge goal. 

“We strongly believe that the impact of Beat Nb is growing in the Lansing area,” Dexheimer said. “The research that Beat Nb is driving affects all children that are diagnosed with neuroblastoma. This benefits any children in our area who is battling this disease. Their ties with Michigan State University help make central Michigan a place where childhood cancer research is flourishing and making a real difference. 

“We now have a strong network of local women that are driven to help find a cure,” Dexheimer said. “We have also set the roots with several local businesses and foundations for partnerships in the future.”

Currently, Beat Nb raises awareness and research funds toward finding viable treatments, including alternatives to the harsh therapies for patients. Using oral drugs with low side effects, early clinical trials are proving that these therapies can help prevent relapse, hinting at a cure in the future – potentially positively affecting countless patients and their families. The goal is to have 50 institutions working together by the end of 2018 as part of the Beat Nb group. 

As for upcoming fundraisers, Beat Nb is putting together teams for Reebok Ragnar Michigan, a 200-mile team relay race from Muskegon to Traverse City this fall. A Grand Rapids golf tournament is also in the works, and a team is being assembled for the 2019 Gazelle Girl race, as well as a 5K in Lansing next year. Through a local group of volunteers, Lansing’s chapter of Beat Nb proves that people working together in a grass-roots operation can truly make a difference on a national level. In fact, for some children, the cancer is a matter of life and death. The awareness, research and funding for a cure truly make a life or death difference. Lives are being saved daily – on a local, statewide and national level – thanks to Beat Nb.

“Beat Nb has helped change what a diagnosis of neuroblastoma means to a family, and we continue to do so,” Matthews said. “This isn’t petri dishes and hopes that in a decade we’ll see results. The clinical trials we’re helping make happen matter right now. There are kids in Michigan who are alive, who wouldn’t be five years ago – in part because of the research we’re helping make happen.”

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Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn

Sarah Spohn received her degree in Journalism from Lansing Community College. She’s a concert junkie; living and breathing in both the local and national music scene. She is proud to call Lansing her home, finding a new reason every day to be smitten with the mitten.

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