The Westfield High School Kids Walk for Kids with Cancer Club participated in the Memorial Sloan Kettering’s (MSK) annual fundraising walk on Saturday, April 30. Hundreds of students, families, and cancer survivors gathered in Central Park to take part in the MSK’s fight against pediatric cancer.
Circling a 1.5 mile lap around Central Park, members of the Kids Walk club represented Westfield in this year’s event. Co-presidents Emily Beattie and Amy Liang led the group in honoring members of the Westfield community who are battling or have battled pediatric cancer.
“We all have been affected by cancer in some way,” stated a young cancer survivor as she commenced the opening ceremony of the walk. Describing her experiences through the rounds of chemotherapy and shaving her head, she reminded the audience that cancer is a threat to children, too.
Junior co-president of WHS Kids Walk Club, Amy Liang, gives a similar message. “Pediatric cancer affects almost everyone. I have seen and read stories about young children who have lost their lives way too soon due to cancer, so I really believe in this cause and everything that it stands for,” Liang said in an interview with JSR.
The WHS club was started in 2013, but junior co-president Emily Beattie has been involved in Kids Walk since she was in 5th grade, and now serves on the student board. She stated, “I feel blessed to be a part of this cause. Each year I’ve done the walk, I have been able to see the crowd of walkers getting larger…” Having served on the board for two years now, Beattie led this year’s walk. She added, “Being a part of the student board has allowed me to see how every person who does the walk is able to benefit the children at MSK.” Kids Walk, which began as walkathon at a Brooklyn high school in 2001, has since grown into a larger fundraising organization raising money toward pediatric cancer research. According to Memorial Sloan Kettering, Kids Walk has raised over $3 million since its beginning, and has raised over $880,000 and counting this year alone.
According to Liang, only about 4% of the government’s cancer research budget goes toward pediatric cancer research, a budget disproportional to the impact of cancer on the the lives of children. Therefore, an organization like Kids Walk is a way for the community to join together and raise money as well as awareness in a fun event.
Childhood cancer is notably underfunded in comparison with the amount of money spent researching other, equally prominent diseases. According to I Care I Cure, the National Cancer Institute spends about $26.4 million on developing pediatric cancer drugs, as opposed to $584 million on breast cancer alone.
“I do not think people realize how little of the government funding goes toward pediatric cancer research; every penny counts, and with each donation, we are that much closer to finding a cure,” Liang said.
Cancer is certainly more common among adults than children, but compared to the overall population of each age group, the funding disparities are quite disproportionate. Additionally, the St.Baldrick’s Foundation website states that drug companies spend little to no money on developing childhood cancer drugs because they are perceived to be less profitable than adult cancer drugs.
Over the past three years, the WHS Kids Walk club has raised over $14,000 through various bake sales, bracelet sales, and donations. The club also hosted a “Money Wars” in homeroom classes and partnered with Alex and Ani of downtown Westfield in which 15% of its proceeds were donated to Kids Walk.