Monday, April 24, 2017

The 10th Anniversary of The James Fund

Tom Hanks honouring the James Fund through special message

It’s almost impossible to believe that it’s been 9 years since my last “James hug” and 10 years since The James Fund was founded by James and his family in a desperate attempt to save his life. James died in December 2001 when he was 8 years old. He has been gone now longer than he spent time on this earth.

But oh what he did with that time.

James didn’t give up, not once. He said “I’m always going to be fighting cancer,” and in fact he is. His parents, Syd and Pam Birrell, and his devoted sister and brother share his memory selflessly, often at times when they’d just rather not.

But they do because James’s story was so powerful, his spirit so strong, and his legacy so important. James was determined that there would be a day when no other child would die of the neuroblastoma that was slowly, painfully killing him.

And the fund that bears his name is getting ever closer to that day for which James fought so desperately.

The James Fund was conceived at a kitchen table and born at a fundraiser at the local church later 10 years ago this Saturday.  A love of space exploration bonded James to Tom Hanks, who is now the Fund’s Honourary Patron. And over the last decade, The James Fund has achieved heights no one though possible, except maybe James:

×          $9 Million into the James Birrell Laboratories

×          Awarded the top neuroblastoma research award in the world

×          Projects in 8 countries, partnering with the brightest cancer scientists in the world

×          Funding research no other agencies will fund

×          25 published articles in leading scientific journals worldwide

×          Assigned to represent Canada on global neuroblastoma committees

×          Umbrella for neuroblastoma families across Canada, fighting to save their kids

×          Running a clinical trial at 5 hospitals across North America

×          Perhaps the greatest hope neuroblastoma families have

To the Birrell family, including Diana Birrell, James’ Aunt and The James Fund’s Executive Director, who work so hard for the end of neuroblastoma, we offer you our heart-felt thanks and appreciation.

But I’ll let two other friends of James’ have the last word. The Kratt Brothers of PBS’s new show Wild Kratts and the Emmy Award-winning Zoboomafoo invited James to the set of the show and became his friend. Because to know James was to be his friend.

The Kratt Brothers Congratulate The James Fund on 10 years

Congratulations, indeed James Fund. You aren’t looking to build careers, get rich or do anything other than save kids. I join you in hoping you have no reason to exist in ten years. But until then, you may just be the best hope that neuroblastoma families have. It’s a good thing that our little James has some mighty big shoulders.

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