In 2017, it is estimated that 15,270 children and adolescents ages 0 to 19 years will be diagnosed with cancer and 1,790 will die of the disease in the United States. Though cancer in children is much rarer than in adults, it is the leading cause of death in disease past infancy in the United States. Cannonball Kids’ cancer (CKc), based in Winter Park, is a nonprofit organization focused on furthering childhood cancer research to eradicate the deadly disease of cancer.
Cannonball Kids’ cancer was founded in June 2014 by Michael and Melissa Wiggins, parents of Cannon Wiggins, who was diagnosed with Stage IV high-risk neuroblastoma at 20 months old. Michael and Melissa learned that so little time, effort and funding is devoted to finding cures for children’s cancer compared to adult cancers, and as a result, children are unnecessarily and unjustly lost. CKc aims to stop the tragic reality of children suffering and dying because of the lack of research in the world of children’s cancer treatments.
CKc will receive at least $162,500 over the next two years from two local organizations – XL Soccer World and Runway to Hope – for research grants that could save lives for children fighting cancer. Immediately, $62,500 in combined donations from both organizations for 2017 will go toward funding existing research trials. XL Soccer World alone has made a $100,000 commitment for 2018 that will fully fund a new research trial, which allows even more children to be given an option for survival. Runway to Hope plans to evaluate the opportunity to provide CKc additional aid and funding for 2018.
Due to the generosity of these two organizations, CKc is actively behind funding nine research grants.
“We’re grateful to XL Soccer World and Runway to Hope for their generosity and vision in funding these vital childhood cancer research grants. Oftentimes, it’s so easy to donate something tangible to the cause, like blankets, meals, and granting wishes, which are great, but research is the key to changing the face of pediatric cancer,” stated Melissa Wiggins, executive director of CKc. The $100,000 donation made by XL Soccer World is allowing CKc to establish a research grant in the name of the organization: the XL Soccer World Research Grant. The funds for this grant will be generated through XL Soccer World’s annual Kicking Kids Cancer events in Orlando (to be held Oct. 14), Virginia and Maine.
“XL Soccer World and Kicking Kids Cancer are delighted to be partnering with CKc to fund a research trial through our annual fundraiser this fall. Through our joint efforts, and the generosity of the soccer community throughout Central Florida, we hope to truly Kick Kids Cancer to the sidelines,” added Ciaran McArdle, CEO of XL Soccer World.
Runway to Hope, a longtime supporter of existing pediatric cancer programs in Central Florida, has committed $12,500 to CKc’s Trevor Scheerer Grant. Funds were raised through the organization’s annual Fashion Brunch & Boutique Stroll on Sept. 17 at the Mall at Millenia. The grant’s namesake, Trevor Sheerer, an 8-year-boy from Lake Nona, walked in the Runway to Hope gala three times before his passing from relapsed rhabdomyosarcoma in 2016.
After Trevor’s passing, the grant in his honor was established to offer up to 36 children the chance at surviving deadly, relapsed tumors through a novel immunotherapy trial at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Carbone Cancer Center. “We thank CKc for honoring one of our Runway to Hope models, Trevor Sheerer, by funding a trial in his name. His legacy will live on with strength and kindness through the good work being done by their foundation,” added Josie NeJame, co-founder of Runway to Hope.
CKc continues to work with foundations already involved in pediatric cancer work to direct more funding to research, with the goal to raise $1 million in funding for the grants by year end. “Every dollar counts; we never know which dollar will find the cure,” noted Melissa Wiggins. In too many cases, parents with children fighting pediatric cancer are told their child has no more options for survival. CKc is providing options through these new research trials.