With more than 1,750 participants and 58 teams, this year’s annual 5K fundraiser was one of the largest turnouts ever for the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, which provided financial assistance to 2,500 families struck by childhood cancer across the country in 2017.
The Foundation’s fundraisers always involve students and families, with a motto of “Kids Helping Kids Fight Cancer” underlining the organization’s focus on engaging young people in directly supporting other children battling the disease.
Six-year-old Hayden Weiss was one of the dozen youngsters contending with cancer who took part in last week’s event at Salesianum School. Hayden and other young cancer patients stood on the steps at the school’s entrance, where they were introduced by B+ Foundation head Joe McDonough, whose son Andrew is the Foundation’s namesake. The Salesianum student was 14 when he died from cancer in July 2007.
A happy girl now looking forward to starting first grade, Hayden was quite proud of her mother Helen and her team of colleagues from global financial services company BNY Mellon who turned out to participate in the 5K – many of whom traveled great distances to walk and raise funds in Hayden’s honor.
Helen Weiss said she was deeply moved by the support of her coworkers. “My BNY team has always supported me. Several of them traveled from L.A., Hartford, London – two people! — Pittsburgh, Philly and Wilmington to be here today. I’m really happy that everyone is here and supporting this cause, which is really important to us.”
Hayden was only 3 years old when she was diagnosed with a rare form of eye cancer, Retinoblastoma, causing her to lose vision in that eye. Because her particular disease progressed so rapidly, treatment was not an option, and doctors removed her eye.
It has been a long and difficult road for Hayden, whose physical and emotional health deteriorated drastically during months of treatment at the Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania (CHOP). But one of their first signs of hope was learning about the B+ Foundation. “We had never heard of Andrew McDonough’s story or the Foundation until a mutual friend introduced us to Joe during our darkest hours while Hayden was suffering in the hospital,” said Weiss.
McDonough was the first parent they had talked to who had been in their position, and the strong bond they formed has continued to this day. “Our daughter is now a B+ Hero, and she has partnered with the women’s lacrosse team at the University of Delaware. It has been such a blessing, and Hayden calls the girls her big sisters,” said Weiss.
While support from their many friends and the B+ Foundation means a great deal to the Weiss family, they still have a long road ahead. “Hayden is doing okay,” explained Weiss. “We are still dealing with the side effects of chemo and radiation. But her energy and spirit are amazing.”
Organizers say this year’s race raised $100,000, all of which will fund critical childhood cancer research and provide critical support that is so important to children like Hayden and their families.