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Hugs for Brady Winter Gala to Honor Local Humanitarian

Hugs for Brady Pediatric Cancer Humanitarian of the Year Award to be presented to Mary Gondek, owner of Confectionately Yours, at annual gala Jan. 26.

In 2010, Sherrie and Mike Wells Brady was diagnosed with the disease when he was just 13 months old.

Motivated by their grief, the Wells started the Hugs For Brady Foundation in hopes of raising awareness for and advancing the fight against pediatric cancer.

At last January’s Winter Gala, a fundraising event held by the philanthropy, the foundation announced they would be donating $50,000 to help fund a new pediatric oncology/hematology Young Investigator’s program at the The Cancer Institute of New Jersey. They expect to donate another $50,000 from this year’s gala.

The gala, the third organized by Hugs for Brady, will be held Saturday, Jan. 26, from 6-11 p.m. at the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick. Tickets are $150 per person or $1,500 for a table of 10. The event is black-tie optional and will feature presentation of the Hugs for Brady Pediatric Cancer Humanitarian of the Year Award to Mary Gondek, owner of Confectionately Yours restaurant on Route 27 in Franklin Park, and the Dr. Randy Siegel Pediatric Cancer Humanitarian of the Year Award to Valerie McRae, M.D.

Reservations can be made online at www.hugsforbrady.org or checks can be mailed to the Hugs for Brady Foundation, 4 Quentin Rd, Kendall Park, NJ 08824 (include all of the contact information for all of your guests (name, address, phone, and email). Out-of-town guests can take advantage of special hotel room rate of $99 by calling 732-729-4670.

John Glod, a pediatric oncology/hematology specialist and advisor to the Young Investigator’s Program, noted the importance independent contributions, like those given by the Hugs For Brady Foundation, are to the advancement of finding a cure.

“Independent funding like this is incredibly, incredibly important,” said Glod. “There are significantly less opportunities to receive federal funding now than there were in the past. Organizations like Hugs For Brady, and other philanthropic organizations that provide the money for this kind of research, are even more critical now.”

He noted that this was particularly true in regards to new doctor by providing them with opportunities to start their careers by getting involved in research initiatives.

“Programs like the Young Investigator’s program allow us bring young, bright, energetic new doctors to look at these diseases with a fresh set of eyes; It keeps the momentum going toward finding a cure.” 

Glod explained that this research, which is currently underway, is focused on better understanding MLL–translocations, and the role these specific gene and protein abnormalities play in cells becoming leukemic.

“I think what a lot of people don’t realize is how many people are affected by pediatric cancer,” said Glod. It’s not just the kids and their immediate families – but the schools and communities that they come from.

“It’s a devastating, unfair illness that we need to do a better job of learning how to treat.”

He said he first met the Wells when their son Brady was undergoing treatment at The Cancer Institute of New Jersey.

“What Mike and Sherrie have been able to accomplish is absolutely incredible,” said Glod. “They bring so much energy to what they do it motivates everyone around them.”

Michael Wells said he hoped the Pediatric Oncology/Hematology Young Investigators Program funded by the foundation would be the first of many of its kind.

The Hugs For Brady Foundation gives back in other ways by delivering flowers to local pediatric hospitals, donating custom build IV wagons, and organizing blood and platelet drives.

The Foundation also holds fundraising events throughout year, including the Hugs For Brady 5k and Family Fun Day.

The upcoming Winter Gala will be held on Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013, at the Heldrich Hotel in New Brunswick. Tickets can be purchase online at the foundations website, hugsforbrady.org. For more information, contact Michael Wells at mwells@hugsforbrady.org.

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