Emily Beazley died in May 2015, but the foundation she founded continues to help young people like her.
Since Emily’s death, “Kures for Kids” has been her legacy, and her family and friends are building upon Emily’s vision by raising over $1 million to help children battling cancer.
In October, the Emily Beazley’s Kures for Kids St. Baldrick’s Hero Fund, which was established last year, announced three grants of $575,000 total to three doctors who are researching childhood cancer.
Ed Beazley, Emily’s father, said he is humbled by the support his daughter’s cause has received.
“It’s just amazing that so many people come together to make this happen,” he said. “We’re fortunate to be in such a great area that we’re able to have so many events link to Emily to raise this much.”
Emily died at age 12 after being diagnosed with stage-three T-cell lymphoblastic non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in April 2011. She battled cancer three times, and while she was off treatment the first time, she named her foundation Kures for Kids and drew a logo featuring a Chihuahua, just like her therapy dog.
The St. Baldrick’s Foundation donates millions of dollars to pediatric cancer research, and much of that comes from fundraisers in which people collect donations to have their heads shaved.
Emily’s family teamed up with St. Baldrick’s to create her hero fund in January 2018, and last year, it provided about $400,000 in research grants, thanks to many local residents participating in local St. Baldrick’s events.
Three doctors from three corners of the country will benefit from this year’s grants.
Dr. David Haussler, of the University of California-Santa Cruz, will receive the “Emily Beazley’s Kures for Kids St. Baldrick’s Treehouse Childhood Cancer Initiative Consortium Research Grant” of $400,000. According to St. Baldrick’s, Haussler and his colleagues share pediatric cancer data produced from genomic studies around the world, compiling information on a variety of cancer types from diverse sources “on an unprecedented scale.”
Haussler’s team has evidence that it can identify instances in which a drug developed for another type of cancer might prove to be effective against pediatric cancer, providing new treatments and “new hope” for patients.
Ed Beazley said the fund is pleased to direct money toward that cause.
“We gladly did it because that’s for all types of cancers,” he said. “It’s something that needed to be done.”
Dr. Birgit Knoechel, an assistant professor of pediatrics and pediatric oncologist from Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass., has been named the “Emily Beazley’s Kures for Kids St. Baldrick’s Scholar” and will receive a grant of $75,000. She is a repeat grant recipient, and her research focuses on drug-resistant T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia and new treatment strategies for patients with relapsed leukemia.
Beazley said he was told Knoechel’s research from last year’s grant made “promising” strides, and he’s optimistic that progress will continue.
“We hope it does great things,” he said. “Even if it saves one life, it’s a life where parents don’t have go through what [his wife and Emily’s mother] Nadia and I had to go through and that a kid doesn’t have to go through what Emily went through.”
Dr. Roland Walter, of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle, Wash., will receive a $100,000 research grant. His research focuses on helping children with leukemia through radioimmunotherapy, which uses antibodies to deliver radiation directly to cancer cells. He is working on a radioimmunotherapy that targets a protein on leukemia cells. It can potentially create a less toxic treatment option.
Emily’s parents said Emily remained willing to fight in her final days, but nothing could be done to save her. However, her graceful personality shined in her final months, as the city rallied behind Emily.
Her home block on 107th Street and Homan Avenue was dedicated as “Honorary Emily Beazley Avenue” in April 2015, and Emily stood with her father atop a ladder to unveil the sign, with hundreds of people cheering in support.
Later that month, she and her younger sister, Olivia, were named honorary Chicago police officers, joining their father and grandfather in the ranks. In front of dozens of supporters at police headquarters, Emily said that battling cancer was difficult, “but you gotta stay strong, and you gotta stay positive, no matter what happens,” a quote her family and friends still cite in promoting her foundation.
Emily also received a phone call from Taylor Swift, her favorite musician, that month.
Emily’s supporters had initially raised funds for her cause through a Kures for Kids fair and a candlelight bowling event, which raised about $150,000.
The family has taken a reprieve from hosting those events, but donations continue to pour in through St. Baldrick’s events.
Ed Beazley has “braved the shave” for St. Baldrick’s at multiple events as a way to honor his daughter.
He said he is grateful for people in the community who have joined him.
“We couldn’t do it without this area.”