MAPLEWOOD, NJ — More than 4,000 people came to Verona Park on Saturday, June 10, to celebrate the courage and resilience of children in our area being treated for cancer and blood disorders. Now in its 12th year, The Valerie Fund Walk & JAG Physical Therapy 5K Run is a communitywide event where participants, sponsors and volunteers come together and reinforce the belief that no one is alone in their battle against a life-threatening disease.
Since breaking the million-dollar mark in 2012, more than $6.3 million has been raised to support the children and families of The Valerie Fund — children like 6-year-old Gavin, who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia in December of 2016. Gavin’s family and friends raised close to $28,000 for his team, Gavin’s Gang, and can proudly claim the No. 2 spot of the top 10 fundraising teams. Gavin’s mother, Carolyn, understood the importance of the grassroots efforts of hundreds of teams, individuals and local businesses. She will never forget the “fantastic camaraderie across the teams and participants during the walk, helping to bolster an amazing fund that does wonders for the positive attitude that is critical to pediatric cancer treatment.”
Sponsors included JAG Physical Therapy, Atlantic Health, RWJ Barnabas Health, Bank of America, Investors Bank and The Dannon Company. Burger King and a several ShopRite families brought fundraising for The Valerie Fund into their restaurants and stores during promotional campaigns at registers, which has raised money and awareness. This year, The Valerie Fund was fortunate to receive support from new sponsors including Global Healthcare Management, Bats Global Markets, RSM US, Quest Diagnostics and St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital, home of the newest Valerie Fund Children’s Center.
“We have only recently discovered what The Valerie Fund was all about and we knew it was an organization we wanted to work closely with,” Global Healthcare CEO Jon Letko said. “I am honored to have been able to sponsor their 5K Run/Walk event. No matter how much we support The Valerie Fund, what we get back is more than we could ever give. We are already looking ahead to see how we can help and get involved in the near future.”
The Valerie Fund is currently celebrating 40 years of caring for children with life-threatening diseases. After their 9-year-old daughter Valerie succumbed to cancer, Sue and Ed Goldstein were determined that no family should have to travel great distances to receive state-of-the-art medical care. Along with a group of close friends, they began fundraising efforts from their living room — tireless work that led to the 1977 opening of New Jersey’s first pediatric oncology facility at Overlook Medical Center in Summit.
Today, more than 6,000 children with cancer and blood disorders benefit immeasurably by receiving their medical treatment close to home in a child-centered environment. The Valerie Fund ensures they do not have to rely on insurance reimbursements to receive a range of customized therapeutic services. The multi-discipline staff helps patients and families navigate the challenges faced at diagnosis, throughout treatment and beyond and includes social workers, child life specialists, educational liaisons, and integrated medicine and palliative care specialists among others.