Childhood Cancer Awareness Month: Filling the Funding Gap

Published September 19, 2022 | 4 min read

As part of our commitment to youth well-being, we are proud to shine a spotlight on pediatric cancer research and treatment during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Childhood cancer is rare, but it is still the leading cause of disease-related death in youth. That is why we are firmly committed to supporting MSK Kids, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s (MSK) pediatric program to help fund research into cutting-edge treatment. To bring more awareness to this important cause, we sat down with Maggie Rossi, Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, and Colleen Hanley, Senior Fundraising Manager, in MSK’s Office of Development to learn more:

Q: Why is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month so important?

Image of Maggie Rossi

Maggie Rossi: Childhood cancer is considered rare, but it’s the number one disease-related cause of death in children.  The federal government only allots 4% of its budget to pediatric cancer, so philanthropy fills the funding gap for necessary research and treatment.

Image of Colleen Hanley

Colleen Hanley: Very often, people associate cancer with adults, and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month gives families an outlet to ask for philanthropic support or receive a simple acknowledgment that pediatric cancer exists.

“Our mission--to offer both clinical care and research--is very impactful in the fight against childhood cancer because discoveries that occur in our labs quickly translate to treatments in the clinic. Many of these treatments have set the standard for care worldwide.”

- Maggie Rossi, Associate Director of Corporate and Foundation Relations, MSK

Q: Can you describe the impact that MSK Kids has had on childhood cancer research and treatment?

Maggie Rossi: MSK Kids treats more kids with cancer than any other institution in the US--even among those hospitals that only treat children. And our impact reaches far beyond the tri-state area. Our mission--to offer both clinical care and research--is very impactful in the fight against childhood cancer because discoveries that occur in our labs quickly translate to treatments in the clinic. Many of these treatments have set the standard for care worldwide.

Colleen Hanley: My father was a patient at MSK Kids in the 1970s. The groundbreaking research that was conducted at that time is the reason I am here today. It’s inspiring to realize that fundraising for a cause today can have such enormous impact on kids 50 years from now.  

Q: How did RBC Capital Markets’ partnership with MSK Kids begin?

Maggie Rossi: The partnership began over a decade ago, and it’s incredible to see how this relationship has progressed. We are now the sole beneficiary of the RBC Race for the Kids in New York, and all of RBC’s philanthropy goes directly to immuno-oncology research at MSK Kids. We now have a year-round, “wall to wall” partnership. We don’t have that type of relationship with many corporate donors, and this partnership has had an incredible impact on kids’ cancer awareness and treatment.

Q: What is immunotherapy and why is it so important to treating children’s cancers?

Maggie Rossi: Immunotherapy harnesses the body’s immune system to fight cancer. These treatments tend to be less toxic and have fewer of the long-term side effects that accompany standard treatments, like radiation and chemotherapy. Our goal is to find the path of least resistance, so kids can receive treatment and have a better quality of life.

Recently, there have been immunotherapy breakthroughs for colorectal cancer and melanoma in adults, but these treatments haven’t had the same level of success with children.  Developing immunotherapies for kids requires a deep understanding of the immune cells in and around their tumors. One of the goals is to create new drugs specifically for pediatric cancers. MSK Kids has the infrastructure to make the next big discovery, but philanthropy is necessary to help us get there.  

Q: Beyond financial support, how are RBC employees making a difference in the lives of children with cancer?

Maggie Rossi: Any large corporation that showcases its participation raises the bar for other companies. Acknowledging Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is important, but the year-round support and participation from employees brings another level of awareness that this disease impacts families all the time, and that we need to do more to fight it.

Colleen Hanley: Beyond financial support, RBC employees give kids and families hope. A lot of childhood cancer patients get diagnosed and treated locally and then find MSK Kids along the way when they can’t find hope in their communities. They come to us because we give them the opportunity to fight the disease in a different way.  

Q: How can they someone become more engaged in this cause?

Maggie Rossi: There are so many ways to get involved through fundraising events like Cycle for Survival and the RBC Race for the Kids. The more people that get involved in these events, the better, because every dollar counts.

Colleen Hanley: Another important thing that someone can do to help anywhere in the world is by participating in blood drives. Childhood cancer patients go through a large amount of blood donations.

Q: Why are corporate partnerships like these so important to helping kids reach their full potential?

Maggie Rossi: When we help RBC employees understand MSK Kids’ mission, we create lifelong champions. During RBC Charity Day for the Kids, we talked about our purpose and how the level of championing we received at the corporate level meant so much to us.  RBC is a great example of a corporate partner. It’s clear that volunteerism, participation and philanthropy is a huge part of their culture.

Colleen Hanley: Having corporate partnerships where employees at all levels and divisions are so passionate about philanthropy is very important to us. We receive an overwhelming amount of donations through our matching gift program, and these programs are a great way to show employees that their company really cares about their philanthropic interests.

As part of its long-standing mission to help kids lead a healthy life and reach their full potential, RBC Capital Markets directs all fundraising for MSK Kids to support immunotherapy research through the RBC Initiative in Pediatric Immuno-Oncology. Learn more about MSK Kids and other charitable organizations that are doing great work to support youth causes.

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