After a highly successful year in 2011, which saw over $200,000 raised to fight pediatric cancer, South Brunswick's Hugs for Brady Foundation is looking to build on past accomplishments in the upcoming year.
Hugs for Brady was started by Mike and Sherrie Wells, of Kendall Park, in honor of their son from pediatric leukemia.
"Hugs for Brady is truly a grass roots foundation. We started the foundation in 2010 and with the help of our many wonderful volunteers have grown beyond our imagination," Sherrie said.
The Wells started the Hugs for Brady Foundation with the goal of helping the Cancer Institute of New Jersey and the Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital (BMSCH) fight pediatric cancer. The non-profit organization supports all causes concerning pediatric cancer, from buying custom built wagons, computers, televisions and video games for patients, to helping finance a pediatric/hematology fellowship program.
In 2011, the foundation held 10 blood and platelet drives, conducted 42 weeks of flower deliveries to five local hospitals, purchased and distributed 18 Brady Buggy custom built wagons to sick children, purchased 24 flat screen televisions, and 24 Wii and Xbox gaming systems installed at Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital, and secured funding for a pediatric hematology/oncology young investigator.
“A young investigator is typically defined as someone in postdoctoral training or who has recently completed postdoctoral training," Sherrie said. "Young Investigators are extremely enthusiastic about their work, yet they do not yet have the experience or knowledge and frequently need assistance moving their research ideas forward. The mission of the Hugs for Brady Foundation, in cooperation with New Jersey Cancer Institute and CureSearch, is to develop young investigators into leaders in the administration, research, and scientific agenda of Children’s Oncology Group (COG). "
The COG partners with research scientists from around the world in an effort to understand the causes of pediatric cancer and to find more effective treatments for children, Sherrie added.
The Hugs for Brady Young Investigator Program will be the first in New Jersey, and the foundation hopes to have the $100,000 in funding available to initiate the program by mid-2012.
Hugs for Brady also held a number of fundraising events last year, with the first Annual Twilight 5k and Family Fun Run, Hugs for Brady Night at the Ballpark (Somerset Patriots), and the second annual Confectionately Yours Family Fun Day, to name a few. Sherrie credited the numerous volunteers for helping make the events a success.
"We are a blue collar organization supported by local merchants, and the good people of Middlesex, Somerset and Mercer Counties,” she said. “We are a 100 percent volunteer organization and would never be as successful as we are without them. Countless hours of selfless work and sacrifices are the engine that drives the Hugs for Brady Foundation."
As a South Brunswick-based charity, Sherrie said the support from people throughout the township has allowed Hugs for Brady to grow in ways the Wells family never envisioned.
"The support we have gotten from the town of South Brunswick is testimony to the good quality of its people and its leaders," she said. "Some people have just gone above and beyond. Mayor Frank Gambatese, Councilman Joe Camarota, and Recreation and Parks Director Tom Morris to name a few."
As for the long-term goals of the foundation, Sherrie said they plan on continuing to provide support in anyway possible for patients and their families, in addition to funding programming at state hospitals.
"We would like to continue to grow and expand throughout New Jersey following the four pillars of our moral compass: donate blood, donate platelets, donate time, and of course, if you can, donate money," she said. "Bringing awareness about the horrors of pediatric cancer is the only way the disease will ever become a priority and ultimately eradicated from our children."
For Mike and Sherrie, the opportunity to help provide some comfort and support to families facing the same battle they went through with Brady is what drives them to continue with the fight against pediatric cancer, and to make sure everyone remembers that kids get cancer too.
“When you have a child fighting for their life it is amazing how much it means that people care," Sherrie said. "We deliver flowers virtually every week to the local hospitals and it is truly astonishing how many smiles they generate."
Hugs for Brady will be holding their annual Winter Gala at the Hunterdon Hills Playhouse in Hampton on Feb. 18. , a two time All-Pro New York Giant, is being honored as the Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts to help children and families fighting pediatric cancer, Sherrie said.
Tickets are $125 a person, which includes cocktails, a full course dinner, music and dancing. The last day to reserve seats is Feb. 2, if any are available. Click here for more information.