NEW PROVIDENCE, NJ - Cancer does not discriminate; it affects all ages, races and ethnicities. Brain cancer, which is incurable, claims many lives every year. On Dec. 2, in Central Park in Manhattan, the Voices against Brain Cancer Foundation will hold their annual 5k run/ walk and two families from New Providence are participating in hopes of a cure.
The organization’s goal is to find a cure for brain cancer by raising awareness, conducting research and supporting families. Amy Reiling’s 6-year-old son Lucas was diagnosed in 2008 and Julie Spoerl’s husband Scott received the tragic news in 2006.
The walk features Tony Danza as the master of ceremonies, kids races, live entertainment and family activities. There will also be several awards given out including the Caregiver Recipient Award to Reiling.
The Spoerls' lives have changed greatly since the diagnosis, but they have been doing everything they can to raise money to find a cure. They have participated in the walk since 2007 and each year many friends, colleagues, neighbors and family members attend.
The walk has also connected Julie with other wives whose husbands are battling the disease.
“They’re also a source of support,” she said. “They linked me with these other two women. Beyond being an organization has helps to find a cure; they also help to bring people together for support.”
While the walk is primarily for adults with brain cancer, Reiling said she got involved because of its intentions. Since her son’s diagnosis, she has been immersed in fundraising and trying to raise as much money as possible to help find a cure.
“I really like the idea of this walk,” she said. “It’s an easy way to make money. This is an avenue of how I can get to know what research is being done to find a cure and to get them to help supporting that research. I do want to understand the research better.”
Her son’s tumor is low grade, but is being treated like a malignant one, which is what most research is being done for.
After his initial diagnosis, she was directed to the Have a Chance foundation, which eventually merged with Voices against Brain Cancer, but Reiling still needed to fundraise for children, she said. So, after meeting with the founder Mario Lichtenstein and letting him know how she feels, he donated $50,000 to a children’s brain cancer fund in June. It really touched her heart that he did this, she said.
“I’m happy to raise money for adult cancer, but at this time I need to raise money for pediatric brain cancer,” Reiling said.
Several sixth grade students who go to school with Lucas at Salt Brook Elementary recently took it upon themselves to do some fundraising for the walk. On Nov. 13 and 14, the kids will hold an ice cream social in the school cafeteria with the help of Zita’s Ice Cream and they will be selling tornado necklaces and glitter headbands. The necklaces are green and white for New Providence and blue and gold because those are Lucas’s favorite colors.
The students involved are Brian Smith, Anthony Iannacone, Matt Misiukiewicz, Matt Marchesano, Henrik Muer, Jake Connor, Brian Kelly, Tommy Harris and Cheney Price. Principal Jeannie Maier is very proud of the kids. They have participated in charity drives in the past, but none of them have led ones before.
“It’s wonderful, it really is,” Maier said. “When we can get them to initiate projects at such a young age it really sets the tone for when they get into middle school and high school. In this situation there’s a need and they’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”
Brian Smith was the student who decided to do the fundraiser. He knew his friends would be responsible and committed to doing it.
In the past couple of months, they have visited Lucas in class on several occasions and it’s really made a difference for them and him, Smith said.
“I rather them know about Lucas and how he’s struggling so much, but still fighting back and not giving up,” he said.