I am a die-hard Boston Red Sox fan; a card-carrying member of Red Sox Nation. And there’s nothing Red Sox fans like more than watching the Sox take on the New York Yankees. So this week, I will be watching from my living room (Green Monster-green with envy) in Phoenix as my Impress Labs colleagues join Gail Lopez, Founder, President & Parent of G1ve A Buck Fund Inc., on Sept. 1 at Fenway Park, when the Red Sox take on the Yankees, and the fans of both teams take on childhood cancer.
September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and for the past few months, Impress Lab’s creative team has been working with Gail to bring G1ve a Buck to life just in time for this moment: when Fenway Park goes Gold for Childhood Cancer Research. Literally. 37,000 gold signs will be distributed throughout the stadium, and during the third inning, fans will stand and display them in honor of kids fighting cancer and in memory of those children who lost their battle.
Additionally, there will be a contest between the Red Sox and Yankees fans to see which team can donate the most to G1ve a Buck to help fund childhood cancer research. (Text either “Boston” or “New York” to 50555 to show your affiliation and donate a buck to G1ve A Buck.) It’s estimated that if everyone attending this game donates a buck a month for a year, we will generate $500,000 to fund the research needed to save our children.
Two years in the making, this event is the culmination of what can happen when the mother of a childhood cancer survivor focuses her indignation on a broken system into inspiring change.
In 2011, Gail’s 12-year old daughter, Kate, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. After 18 rounds of chemotherapy and eight surgeries over four years, Kate is one of the lucky ones. But due to her treatment using drugs developed 30 years ago, she is left with lifelong challenges, including permanent heart damage.
In fact, according to Kathleen Ruddy, CEO, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, the FDA has approved only three drugs for pediatric cancers. One is no longer used, so some experts exclude it. That one and one other were developed for adults first, and then repurposed for children. In March 2015, a new drug, Unituxin™, was approved by the FDA specifically for children. That drug was made possible by research in combination with the Creating Hope Act, which got the pharmaceutical company “to the table.” So Unituxin was the first new drug specifically developed for a pediatric cancer in more than 20 years.
Why is this the case? While there are a number of charities focused on childhood cancer, not many focus on childhood cancer research. In fact, Gail said she discovered that out of the $4.9 billion allocated to the National Cancer Institute’s research budget, only 3.8% goes to fund childhood cancer research. Thinking, “We can do more,” Gail set out to find a way.
Gail says, ironically, the idea for G1ve a Buck and collaborating with Major League Baseball (MLB) came to her during the 2011 football season. The NFL has taken on breast cancer as a cause, wearing pink throughout October, which is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and has helped raise $6 billion for the Pink industry. Thanks to the amount of research funding, breast cancer is 95% curable, and no longer a death sentence. Why can’t we do the same for childhood cancer? “Major League Baseball is all about kids. Why not market to people who care about kids?” she said.
As a flight attendant, Gail meets a lot of interesting people. On one flight to Boston, she told her story to a Red Sox fan who gave her a ticket to a game, where she was introduced to Dr. Charles Steinberg, Senior Advisor to Boston Red Sox President and CEO Larry Lucchino. A longtime supporter of the Jimmy Fund and Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Steinberg jumped right on board the G1ve-a-Buck bus, introduced Gail to the baseball commissioner, and things just started to snowball beyond Gail’s expectations.
Now not only the Red Sox, but all 30 MLB ball clubs want in. The Sept. 1 Go Gold for Childhood Cancer event will be a case study for future events. Next year, she hopes to see MLB sponsor Childhood Cancer Awareness Day, just as Mother’s Day has become Breast Cancer Awareness Day and Father’s Day has become Prostate Cancer Awareness Day.
So how did a brand-driven communications agency that serves the semiconductor, solar, and life science markets end up working with a charitable organization dedicated to funding childhood cancer research? Once again, it was a combination of casual acquaintances, like-minded sensibilities, and dedication to a common cause.
“When I was 14, my best friend died of lung cancer,” said Martijn Pierik, Managing Partner, Impress Labs. “He was first diagnosed at a very young age, went in remission, and then it came back. Watching him go through it twice had a huge impact.”
G1ve a Buck became a project for Impress Labs’ creative and social media team. “We redeveloped the logo, are building a brand new website, and will support the event with social media,” he added. “We will continue to support G1ve a Buck in whatever way we can.”Impress Labs is already involved with cancer research and treatment through its Life Science practice. Additionally, Martijn’s second passion is Impress Foundation, a nonprofit he established in 2014 to “improve the future of our children through healthcare, sports, and education.” The Foundation’s first event, Tech Minds Charity Golf Classic, raised $20,000 for Make-A-Wish Arizona. As it happens, Gail’s daughter Kate is a Make-A-Wish Ambassador and spoke about her experience at the dinner after the Tech Minds event. Gail’s cousin is an Impress Labs client. “Gail is an infectious person. I met her, heard her story, and wanted to help,” said Martijn. “She’s creating a butterfly effect—which is why the butterfly is the perfect logo for G1ve a Buck.”
Is he surprised at the buzz this event and cause has generated? “No, because it’s the Boston Red Sox. All this wouldn’t have been possible without Charles Steinberg,” Martijn said. “Besides … it’s about fighting childhood cancer. Who in their right mind wouldn’t be supportive of that?”
“In a perfect world, this will be a huge success. There will be 37,000 people there. Hopefully those people will donate, understand the importance of funding childhood cancer research, and create a movement like the Pink campaign did,” said Gail.
I’ll be there in spirit, wearing my Red Sox cap, holding up a “Go Gold for Childhood Cancer” sign in my living room, and texting the keyword,“Boston,” to 50555, because I G1ve a Buck, and I think Red Sox Nation can beat the pants off of Yankees fans in supporting this cause. So even if you’re not at Fenway on Sept. 1, you can still join in the fun and text keyword “Boston” or “New York” to 50555, depending on your affiliation. Go Sox! And G1ve a Buck!