Today PAC2 is honored to present an interview with Dean Crowe, Founder and CEO of Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research. Dean has long been a supporter of PAC2 and we thank her for participating and leading Rally in the fight against childhood cancer!
1) Would you describe Rally’s mission and what the funds raised are used for?
The Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research (Rally) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that empowers volunteers across the country to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research to find better treatments with fewer long-term side effects and, ultimately, cures.
Our mission is really two-fold. First, we provide ways for grassroots supporters to get involved. Once our Rally families are prayed for, have meals on the table and have their bills paid, we tell them to send us the friends that keep asking, “What can do I do to help?” We have ways for them to help!
The second part of our mission is to take the money raised and support research for all types of childhood cancers, from science at the bench to phase II clinical trials, fellowships and survivorship studies through a competitive peer review process.
2) Who are the Rally Kids and how does someone become a Rally Kid?
Anyone who has fought or is fighting childhood cancer can be a Rally Kid. So it can be a kid who passed away or a 70-year-old who just found Rally but fought cancer as a kid! It is simple—just fill out the formand you are a Rally Kid.
The Rally Athlete Half Marathon program is a 16-week training and fundraising program. Beginning to advanced runners can participate in one of the Rally Athlete Training Teams for various half marathons across the country. As a Rally Athlete, you can receive professional coaching and fundraise in honor of a specific Rally Kid, a child who is currently fighting or has fought childhood cancer. Rally Athlete Half Marathon Training Teams have gone to Disney, Seattle Rock N’ Roll, ING and Marine Corps marathons. Some teams are big, over a 100 participants, and some are small, with just six participants. Rally also partnered with St. Baldrick’s Foundation and is pleased to welcome St. Baldrick’s Rally Athletes.
Another program is Rally 4 Quarters 4 Research. This simple change collection fundraiser is organized by grassroots supporters and is done in local schools, businesses, churches and community groups. The program provides a fun, simple way for individuals and organizations to get involved in the cause, while simultaneously gaining valuable team-building skills. In just six years, more than 200 schools across the country have participated in Rally 4Q4R raising money for childhood cancer research.
4) When we last spoke in September 2010, we asked where you saw Rally in two years. It’s now two years later—have your hopes become a reality? What is in store for the future of Rally in another two years?
Last time we spoke, Rally’s goal was to see progress on our funded research projects, which has come to fruition in several areas. We saw our T-Cell ALL projects out of Columbia become an RO1 grant, and we’ve seen huge strides with two Neuroblastoma projects—one at Memorial Sloan Kettering and the other at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. We’ve also seen progress with some survivorship grants that we fund in Atlanta. I’m confident that our Medical Advisory Board will continue to select great projects to fund to make a difference for kids with cancer. We have a lot of fun at Rally, but we always do it with the endgame in mind to see childhood cancer research progress.
5) Rally celebrates its 7th birthday this month. Happy Birthday! What changes within the childhood cancer world have you seen in that time?
Thanks for remembering! Yes, Rally’s birthday is September 27! We’re very excited to have our birthday during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. One of the biggest changes that we’ve seen is a growing awareness of childhood cancer. More people now know that kids get different types of cancer and the funding is different for kids’ cancers than adults. I think this is the result of more organizations coming together to streamline their talking points and really begin to work together for this common goal. What is it that we, as independent childhood cancer foundations, want to say as a whole? Rally was one of the first organizations to say that kids get different cancers than adults. Adults tend to get breast, lung, colon and prostate cancers; and kids tend to get brain tumors, solid tumors and a different kind of leukemia than adults. We see that being said all the time now. Of course awareness is great, but what really gets us excited is seeing that awareness lead people to action.
6) Last year Rally partnered with St. Baldrick’s. Tell us about what you’re working on together.
We got together last year to form the St. Baldrick’s Rally Athlete Half Marathon Training Program. It’s great to have runners from both organizations. We recently took a St. Baldrick’s Rally Athlete Training Team of more than 50 runners to Disneyland on September 2. It was a great way to kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. It’s always so inspiring to meet the runners and hear why they are running, fundraising and how the training went for them. Race day is very fun and emotional. There is something very special seeing the St. Baldrick’s Rally Athletes cross the finish line. We are now recruiting runners for the Georgia Marathon in Atlanta and 13.1 in New York. At both races, our runners will be doing the half marathon. Both races are in March 2013. Anyone want to run?
7) Are there other organizations Rally partners with?
Yes. We continue to do our Rally On the Runway fashion show through our partnership with the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, based out of Florida. We’ve also partnered with Bear Necessities to streamline the grant application for the doctors. We have formed a Collaborative Pediatric Cancer Research Awards Program through Proposal Central. We also co-fund grants together. We are part of a collaboration with LLS, too. Collaborating is very important for Rally and for the childhood cancer community. We love being a part of PAC2. I know that we agree that we’re stronger as one than as individual parts. We all have the same goal, so finding ways to work together is fundamental to finding better treatments and cures faster.
8) Athletics are a big part of Rally. Can you tell us about some of your pro-athlete spokespeople?
We are very fortunate to have professional athletes involved. Our partner Mizuno introduced us to Atlanta Braves player Brian McCann and his agent BB Abbott. Brian’s wife Ashley is amazing as well, and they’re all very committed to the cause. She and Brian are wonderful with the kids. Atlanta Braves player Chipper Jones has also gotten involved. We also have New Orleans Saints’ starting linebacker Curtis Lofton, who watched his high school coach’s daughter battle cancer, so he gets it at a deeply personal level. This season we are thrilled to have Atlanta Falcons’ player Corey Peters, who I love seeing around the kids because he’s like a giant teddy bear. And former Super Bowl Coach Sam Wyche is always willing to help out. We’re really fortunate. It’s fun and inspiring to work with these athletes because they reach out to their teammates and get them involved in Rally, too!
9) Tell us about your September plans for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. What events and promotions does Rally have going on?
We started out this month in Los Angeles at the Disneyland Half Marathon for our St. Baldrick’s Rally Athlete Program, and that was very exciting. We’re also fortunate to have Robert Mondavi Private Selection running the Corks Against Cancer campaign again this year. They are donating a portion of sales across the country this September and October. So if you drink wine, please pick up a bottle of Robert Mondavi Private Selection. And don’t forget it would make a great holiday gift!
We also have the 46 Faces of Rally campaign, where Rally Families set up a fundraising page to raise awareness and funds for childhood cancer research. It’s exciting to see family and friends Rally behind these beautiful faces of childhood cancer.
The Nash Bash is a big fundraising gala in Nashville. We’ll also celebrate Brad Thompson, who rode his motorcycle around the world. Yes, the world! He raised more than $82,000 for childhood cancer research. We also have several Rally 4 Quarters 4 Research fundraising campaigns going on at schools in different states.
Another thing we are very excited about is a new video that we are currently filming. The project is top secret right now, but it will be released in October. We are blown away with what the production company has in store. It’s going to be exciting, so stay tuned!
10) What aspects of working in childhood cancer research have you found challenging, and how have you overcome these challenges?
Probably the most challenging part is how many kids we lose. We want these cures here yesterday, but we know this research is a long process. My heart is crushed when another kid relapses or loses the battle. Sometimes I feel so defeated when I get that phone call or text that another child has passed away. Seeing what these families go through is very difficult. It’s a tough challenge to overcome. You could let that emotion become extremely negative, or turn it around to inspire you to work even harder. That’s what we choose to do at Rally. We know that we have to keep going, so we do.
Another challenge is bringing the childhood cancer community together. Although I definitely feel like the community is getting more collaborative, people have different ideas of what that collaboration would look like. It is challenging to bring everyone together and to have a final decision be made. We are, without question, a very passionate group!
11) Rally is defined by being very high-energy and athletic-based. Why is that important in achieving Rally’s mission?
The original inspiration for Rally was William Olson, who was on a competitive baseball team with my son when they were in eighth grade. Both baseball and fundraising require a lot of energy, so the genesis of Rally plays into who we are as an organization.
I remember being in William’s hospital room after he had relapsed with a brain tumor. He was a senior in high school (he was originally diagnosed in eighth grade). My son was running around as a healthy senior in high school, but William was lying in a hospital bed literally on death’s door. I remember looking at Nancy (William’s mother) and asking her what I could do to help her, and I told her I wasn’t going to make her dinner. I wanted to do more. She told me to raise money for childhood cancer research and to fund the best research wherever it was being done. So it just made sense to do something around athletics. Athletic people tend to be high-energy, so it all worked out really well.
13) Tell us more about William’s story. We were really sad when heard that he passed away earlier this year.
Yes, it’s been four months since William passed away, and it was very heartbreaking. He graduated from Auburn University with a degree in chemical engineering and found a job, but then the cancer took over with a vengeance. It happened very quickly. Reid (my husband) had been with William that afternoon and had a great talk, but by that evening, William was in ICU. The next morning, we got a text from his mom around 5:30 am saying that William was now in heaven playing baseball. It was just so fast.
William and I would talk about how we were glad that Rally was inspired by a kid who was still around, so when he passed away, it definitely changed the dynamic a bit. I will always be grateful that he was here in Atlanta last year. He was at Auburn for our first five years, so to have him here and involved last year was super special. William was so excited about Rally, and he knew that it was a part of his legacy. We do Rally On for him every day and for all kids fighting cancer. That was really important to William. Rally isn’t about just him, but about all kids fighting cancer.
14) Rally operates at a 93 percent efficiency rate (93 cents of every dollar goes towards its mission). How do you accomplish this?
We run a tight ship at Rally! We think about every penny that we spend, because every penny matters. I have to thank my mom for that, because she was always good at pinching pennies. We want as much money as possible to go toward research, and Rally is very united in that goal. We try as hard as possible to get as much donated as we can, including a lot of high cost items. Every dollar given to us is entrusted to us, and that dollar could fund the dollar that funds the breakthrough. That could be the dollar! We give as much as we can and work extremely hard. It’s for a great cause that we all really do believe in, and the Rally families—really all families fighting childhood cancer—are our inspiration.
On a related note, we also love seeing PAC2 grow and bring the childhood cancer community together. You have done a fabulous job and we are big fans of yours! Thank you, for all you have done and continue to do. Rally looks forward to a long partnership with PAC2.
Thank you Dean and Rally!!