Students Supporting Brain Tumor Research (SSBTR) is holding its annual walk-a-thon Saturday, Feb. 27 to raise money for research at Barrow and other institutions.
SSBTR is a nonprofit organization which formed in 2002 after three students from the Paradise Valley Unified School District were diagnosed with and ultimately succumbed to brain tumors.
Steve Glassman, the founder of the organization and then student council adviser at Pinnacle High School, organized the inaugural walk-a-thon with help from a small group of student volunteers.
The event attracted about 250 participants and raised $7,500. Ten years later, it drew more than 3,000 students and raised more than $215,000.
Ninety-three percent of every dollar raised by SSBTR goes directly to institutions that fund or conduct brain tumor research. In addition to Barrow, beneficiaries include Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the National Brain Tumor Society, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, and the Steele Children’s Research Center.
“These funds allowed us to open a new research direction – the use of the therapeutic ketogenic diet as a treatment for glioblastoma in addition to the standard of care, which includes surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation,” said Dr. Adrienne Scheck, whose laboratory at Barrow is dedicated to neuro-oncology research. “This work has been very successful and has led to the opening of a clinical trial for patients with glioblastoma. Without SSBTR, this would not have been possible.”
SSBTR President Dr. Wendy Kaye, a Valley pediatrician who became involved in the organization after losing her daughter to a brain tumor, said the organization consists of students from elementary school all the way up through medical school. She estimated that about 80 students help organize fundraising events.
Dr. Kaye said that in addition to supporting a cause, the students learn valuable career skills.
“The students really take the lead in running a nonprofit organization,” she said. “They’re expected to write a grant, solicit funds from corporations, and work with foundations. We really help them develop their leadership skills. Many of the co-chairs have gone into nonprofit management, public relations, medical school, and medical research.”
Dr. Kaye said the majority of the students involved in SSBTR have been affected by brain tumors in some way, with many students being survivors themselves.
“Our daughter asked us before she passed to please help other people and to try to find a cure for these problems,” she said. “It’s also to support people who are fighting and let them know that there are a lot of people behind them.”
The walk-a-thon will be held from noon to 3 p.m. at Saguaro High School, which is located at 6250 N. 82nd St. in Scottsdale. Gates open at 11 a.m. Register at the gate or online at www.ssbtr.org.