COLUMBUS — September is a special month for Sammy’s Superheroes. It’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.
The local foundation works year-round to spread awareness about childhood cancer and raise money for research projects, but September is the nonprofit's time to shine.
Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease past infancy among U.S. children, according to the National Cancer Institute.
Despite the severity, childhood cancer research is extremely underfunded by the National Cancer Institute, according to Sammy's Superheroes Foundation Executive Director Jeremy Stanislav, with only 4 percent of the total budget going to pediatric cancer.
Stanislav wants to use Childhood Cancer Awareness Month to reverse that trend.
“We look at October and see what they’ve done for breast cancer,” Stanislav said. “We see the awareness for breast cancer and how people raise thousands for it. We want to take that same thing and make sure we can do the same for childhood cancer.”
Every donation given to the foundation goes to childhood cancer research. Stanislav said Sammy's Superheroes is currently working on several projects.
“We’ve pledged $400,000 to the Pediatric Cancer Data Commons,” he said. “This is a project that comes out of Comer Children’s Hospital in Chicago. What it does is that it takes data from researchers from all around the world and standardizes all the information so that any researchers and doctors can use it.”
By giving more doctors and researchers access to this data, the hope is that it will lead to better treatments and perhaps a cure. This is especially important for rare forms of cancer found in only a small number of children.
Sammy’s Superheroes is also working on ways to further connect with and support families of cancer patients. Updates to the foundation's website are being made so it's a better resource for families.
“We want to be a support system for not only the patients but also their families,” Stanislav said. “We want them to know they are not alone during their darkest time.”
In an effort to support Sammy’s Superheroes, Pastor Will Sanborn of Columbus Berean Church worked with several other local churches and religious organizations to bring illusionist Jim Munroe and his show, “The Maze," to town.
The show will be held 7-9 p.m. Wednesday at Columbus Middle School's Nantkes Performing Arts Center, 2200 26th St., with proceeds going to Sammy's Superheroes Foundation. Advance tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and can be purchased at www.whatisthemaze.com, columbusberean.org/maze, Hy-Vee or any of the sponsor churches — Columbus Berean Church, Trinity Lutheran Church, First Baptist Church and Word of Life Church. Tickets are $15 at the door.
“Jim Munroe has a great track record in entertainment and with the message he brings,” Sanborn said. “With the experience he has with cancer and surviving, we figured he and Sammy’s Superheroes have a natural partnership.”
In 2009, Munroe was selling out venues all over the world with his talents in illusion. Not long after that, he received the devastating diagnosis of leukemia. He won the ensuing battle with cancer and a bone marrow transplant and returned to magic and illusion.
“We’re pretty excited about the event itself,” Stanislav said. “So many Columbus-area churches came together to bring him here for the cause, and because he’s so well-known, it’s a pretty amazing thing."