HACKENSACK, N.J. — Hackensack Meridian Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation celebrates the five-year anniversary of Tackle Kids Cancer, a philanthropic initiative of the Children’s Cancer Institute at Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health, which has raised more than $10 million in support of research, treatment options, and patient care programs to date.

With only 4% of the national cancer research budget allocated to pediatric cancer and only three new cancer drugs developed for children in the past twenty years, Hackensack University Medical Center Foundation and the Children’s Cancer Institute recognized the need for a philanthropic program to help increase funding for pediatric cancer research. Tackle Kids Cancer partnered with the New York Football Giants and launched in September 2015 to raise awareness of the urgent need to find a cure for pediatric cancer.

Eli Manning, former Giants quarterback and Team Tackle Kids Cancer Captain, has been integral in the growth of the program. With his help in launching Eli’s Challenge, and lending his voice to this crucial cause, Eli has helped engage thousands of companies, athletes, community members, and families in the search for a cure to pediatric cancer.

Sign Up for Hackensack Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

“It has been such an honor to work with Tackle Kids Cancer, and I congratulate the Tackle Kids Cancer team for all they have accomplished since its launch,” said Eli Manning. “The work that has been done is inspiring, and I am proud to be a part of it. It has been such a special experience to meet these kids, talk with them, and get to know them. Kids should be able to be kids and live the life they deserve, free of cancer.”

Funds raised have benefited the implementation of trailblazing treatments, like CAR T-cell Therapy which modifies T-cells to recognize and attack cancer cells. The Children’s Cancer Institute was among the first to offer CAR T-cell Therapy for children, and Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center is the only certified medical center to administer the treatment on pediatric patients in the state.

“The success of Tackle Kids Cancer has allowed Hackensack Meridian Health to make a positive impact on pediatric cancer research and patient care programs here in New Jersey and around the world,’’ said Robert C. Garrett, FACHE, CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health. “We are proud of these major strides to combat pediatric cancer and will continue to support our young patients with the most innovative, compassionate care.’’

Advances have also been made in pediatric brain cancer research. The Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation (CDI) now houses a Pediatric Neuro-Oncology Lab, the first in New Jersey. Led by Derek Hanson, M.D. and surgeon-scientist Timothy Vogel, M.D., the lab seeks to continue research on central nervous system tumors, specifically embryonal tumors with multilayered rosettes (ETMR).

“Tackle Kids Cancer is committed to making a difference for our pediatric cancer patients at the Children’s Cancer Institute, and it is evident in all that has been accomplished since the inception five years ago,” said Mark D. Sparta, FACHE, president and chief hospital executive, Hackensack University Medical Center, executive vice president, Population Health, Hackensack Meridian Health. “Tackle Kids Cancer has enabled the Children’s Cancer Institute to provide more options, more treatments, access to more clinical trials, and more importantly, more hope to patients and their families."

“Over the past five years, Tackle Kids Cancer has transformed our ability to deliver innovative, state of the art care and conduct cutting edge research to improve outcomes for children with cancer,” said Judy Aschner, M.D., physician-in-chief, Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital and Hackensack Meridian Children’s Health. “Funds raised have allowed us to recruit outstanding physicians that cross main areas of expertise, thereby broadening our clinical programs and allowing us to expand patient care, family and sibling support, clinical trials, and novel therapies. It has greatly propelled our efforts forward, and I am excited to partner with Tackle Kids Cancer to continue our efforts to conquer pediatric cancer in the next 5 years.”

The support of corporate partners and community organizations in Tackle Kids Cancer’s growth is necessary for critical work to continue. Partners like Sohn Conference Foundation, PepsiCo, Inserra Supermarkets, and partnerships with the PGA, New York Red Bulls, and Madison Square Garden have all helped raise funds toward vital research and treatment initiatives.

“We are so very proud and grateful for the support that Tackle Kids Cancer has received over the last five years,” said Helen A. Cunning, senior vice president, network development, foundation, Hackensack Meridian Health. “In our fight against pediatric cancer, we have developed such wonderful and collaborative partnerships within our community who believe in what we do and have joined with us to bring Tackle Kids Cancer to where it is today. It is because of this support and commitment together we have raised more than $10 million to fund research and provide exceptional care for our youngest patients. We truly cannot do the work we do without the kindness of those in our community.”