By Molly Cerreta Smith
The Children’s Cancer Network (CCN), a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is dedicated to providing assistance to Arizona families battling childhood cancer. The organization was established in 2004, but the impetus for its foundation began in 1993, when Steve and Patti Luttrell’s then five-year-old son Jeff was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL).
The family was devastated and shocked. Jeff received treatment — including multiple rounds of chemotherapy and radiation and finally a bone marrow transplant in order to treat the initial cancer and its four subsequent relapses. However, after nine years of being cancer free, Jeff was diagnosed with a secondary cancer, squamous cell cancer of the tongue. So, at the age of 21, Jeff had numerous additional surgeries and two types of radiation to rid his body again of cancer. Four years later, at the age of 25, this cancer re-occurred. Today, Jeff is doing well and has graduated with a graphic design degree. However, his experience led the Luttrells to want to help other families through this time.
According to the Network, the emotions and experiences throughout cancer treatment and after may be complex and life changing. Often these emotions are difficult to comprehend for those who have not been there. Many families dealing with childhood cancer are faced with a new uncertainty regarding their futures. There likely are questions and needs that never would have been contemplated prior to their child’s diagnosis. Children’s Cancer Network has been formed to focus on the needs of families and their children with cancer.
The Luttells’ daughter Jenny was instrumental in the creation of the fashion show that features children dealing with cancer as well as their siblings. It was designed to be a fun and empowering event that helped to raise money to contribute to the emergency fund for families undergoing bone marrow transplant. In addition to the Fashion show, The Children’s Cancer Network has an auction and luncheon which donates raised funds to the Pediatric Bone Marrow Emergency Funds at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and University Medical Center. The Network also hosts a variety of events and experiences for children/teens battling childhood cancer, along with their families at no cost.
One of their most exciting upcoming fundraising events is their Run to Fight Children’s Cancer 5k/10k, which will be held April 5. Register online for the event at RunToFightCancer.com. Run to Fight Children’s Cancer is the largest race in Arizona dedicated solely to pediatric cancer. Now in its tenth year, the race unites the community in building awareness of childhood cancer and raising much-needed funds for research, treatments, patient education and a host of support services for families battling the disease.
To date, CCN has awarded more than $30,000 in scholarships each year, distributed more than $75,000 in emergency gas and food cards annually, and served more than 750 families yearly through its family-centered programing. For more on the organization, how you can volunteer time, participate in events or donate funds, visit ChildrensCancerNetwork.org