Growing Hope to Beat Childhood Cancer


"In this earth, in this soil, in this pure field, let's not plant any seed other than seeds of compassion and love." ~ Rumi

The philanthropic efforts of the families, friends, communities, and team members that have contributed to the mission and vision of the childhood cancer endeavors my family has spearheaded, supported, and sustained have all been focused on one purpose: growth.

In 2009, a thoughtful, dedicated group of volunteers came together and, in only six weeks, created the first I Back Jack Foundation golf event. The goal was to provide funding to develop and cultivate a new treatment for neuroblastoma at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. This was the type of cancer my son, Jack, had been battling relentlessly since 2005 and for which we had been told there was no known cure. So, when dedicated doctors explained to a group of parents that there could be hope for an otherwise hopeless relapsing cancer diagnosis, we came together to grow our collective efforts into something bigger, better, and more beautiful as one.

Sharing Jack's story with our community of support near and far allowed the success of that first I Back Jack event and subsequent events to plant seeds of hope; more importantly, however, it forged an unwavering collaborative spirit. Parents, supporters, and foundations across the country came together to grow with same ambition toward the ray of hope of new, less-toxic treatments. We did it together because no one foundation or family could or should be forced to bear the burden of cost and responsibility for such daunting childhood cancer innovations alone.

It was during this time that my late husband, John, began filing the paperwork for innumerable childhood cancer foundations across the country each with their own goals, initiatives, associations, and visions of success. Each hopeful, each helpful, and each reminding me how love blooms in the most beautiful of ways. It will never cease to amaze me how strangers and stories can unite and ignite inspiration.

Since my son Jack's death in 2012, his love, his legacy, and our efforts have only continued to grow. He never got that first treatment we so desperately worked to fund, but . . . other children have. The I Back Jack Foundation never faltered in continuing to grow the mission and the hope every child and family deserves. In fact, our final golf event invitation used the image that accompanies this post: GROW. Why? Because "I Back Jack" was never about just one child or one type of cancer, it was about growing an opportunity to support kids like Jack.

Gold In September (G9) was the tender growth of roots I Back Jack planted into the outstretched branches of golden hope. Lovingly imagined, my daughter Annie envisioned a world that didn't just back Jack, but backed every child, everywhere. In an effort to increase awareness and inspire people to take action, G9 has been asking the world to grow gold with us. Our gratitude is plentiful for the response and G9 has used the kind actions, generous donations, and thoughtful support to water and nurture hope in the hearts of families.

It has been with the utmost enthusiasm and optimism that G9 sought an opportunity to continue growing as part of the organization's 2020 Vision. With the support and dedication of so many, including many of whom have thoughtfully been involved since that first event in 2009, the organization has spent the last year in conversation and in coordination of streamlining efforts, conserving costs, funding and fueling innovative initiatives, and growing hope for the future. And nothing makes me happier than to know these plans were mapped out long before COVID-19 began clouding our world.

Remember those numerous foundations I mentioned John helped to establish? They have all been collaborating too and, in fact, a few of them have been growing and evolving together. In early March, the week before the world seemingly closed, I was in Chicago with golden hope meeting with Kyle Matthews, who was wearing his gold Converse. Though we had never met in person, we knew each other as I had cried over the loss of Kyle and Robyn's son Ezra just as they had cried over the loss of Jack.

And so, on July 1, our efforts, and those of other families and foundations, became united as the Beat Childhood Cancer Foundation. What does this mean for G9? It means we will continue doing exactly what we've been doing - growing gold and growing hope with innovative clinical trials, precision medicine, a dedication to growing the conversation and golden awareness needed to ensure kids survive and thrive. We will do so as one organization founded by parents determined to change the story of childhood cancer.

Every day in our personal and professional lives we are growing and planting the seeds for successful tomorrows. I am honored to have committed myself to the cause of making lives better for families with cancer long before my own family became so profoundly touched.

Please watch social media and your email newsletters for more information on what Beat Childhood Cancer is funding and how the Gold In September (G9) programs are continuing to #growGOLD for every child, everywhere.

With hope for today, tomorrow, and always,

About the Author

Sarah Bartosz

Sarah serves as National Director of Strategic Partnerships of Beat Childhood Cancer. Previously President of Gold in September, the two nonprofits merged in shared mission July of 2020.

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