Local HS students raise nearly $290K for pediatric cancer research

Nearly 1,000 local students representing 38 local high school schools gathered together earlier this month for an all-night fundraiser that collected $288,597 supporting novel pediatric cancer research projects and treatments.

Over the past 12 years, CancerFree KIDS’ Night for the Fight event has become one of the Loveland-based nonprofit’s biggest fundraisers. To date, the annual event has generated more than $2.6 million for research projects.

“This event allows our student participants from all over the region to develop as young leaders in their community, truly proving that age is no barrier to making a difference when there is a passion for the cause,” said Jill Brinck, CancerFree KIDS’ executive director.

Much bigger than fun and games

This year’s Night for the Fight took place Feb. 24 at Fifth Third Arena at University of Cincinnati. Throughout the night, the group of teenagers competed in a series of friendly games and challenges, ranging from karaoke contests to video games. There were also speakers who highlighted the importance of raising money for early-stage cancer research.

Before the event, each of the participants raised $150. They did so in a variety of ways – reaching out to family and friends, fundraising on social media, partnering with local restaurants and businesses, hosting events, and more.

This year’s top fundraiser, Eliana Boerner raised over $22,000 in memory of her brother Jonathan, who tragically passed away in 2020 and loved Night for the Fight.

A key part of the evening is giving people like Eliana a chance to share personal reflections on those who have passed away from childhood cancers. It also invites those participants – more than 900 this year – to band together to find ways to support cancer research.

That desire is at the root of the origin story for Night for the Fight. In 2012, a student at Mount Notre Dame at the time, Kelly Higgins, proposed creating the event as a way to fundraise for CancerFree KIDS.

Higgins had just lost her father to cancer. Her dad developed cancer as a child and the disease came back when he was an adult. CancerFree KIDS claims the return of the cancer was a byproduct of limited treatment options available to him as a child.

To honor and remember her father, Higgins envisioned Night for the Fight as a unique fundraiser to support research aimed at creating gentler, more effective treatment options for kids battling cancer.

Providing two decades of hope

Night for the Fight continues today as a way for students to become involved with CancerFree KIDS and learn about the lack of and crucial need for funding for pediatric cancer research. New ideas need money to grow, Brinck said. However, she noted that many “potential breakthrough treatment methods” often go unfunded because of a lack of funding available specifically to pediatric cancer research.

CancerFree KIDS’ uses its grant program to invest in innovative research projects that would otherwise go unfunded, Brinck said.

Since its founding in 2002, CancerFree KIDS has funded 215 research grants totaling $9.45 million. Those dollars helped researchers receive more than $78 million in follow-on funding, resulting in 283 publications, 44 patents, 19 clinical trials, the creation of three companies and the development of two FDA-approved drugs.

CancerFree KIDS celebrates record research investment.

In November, CancerFree KIDS invested a record one-time investment of $1.25 million into 21 research projects at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Columbus-based Nationwide Children’s Hospital. The organization recently expanded operations to Columbus.

“We are so proud to engage high school students through Night for the Fight and are consistently overwhelmed by the incredible impact they have on our mission each year,” Brinck said.

CancerFree KIDS


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