Focus on Child Health: Youth cancer on the rise

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“Your child has cancer.” Words no parent ever wants to hear. But every day 46 children are diagnosed with cancer. Every day 15 children die from their disease. Every day children — from babies to teens — receive chemotherapy, radiation treatment, surgery, spinal taps, bone marrow transplants, stem cell transplants, transfusions, hoping that the weeks or years of torture will save their lives. The parents of these children spend more than 50 percent of their annual income in this fight, all the while wishing that pediatric cancer was an oxymoron.

Amazingly, the occurrence of children’s cancer in the US is increasing annually; in fact, the rate of cancer in teens is increasing at a greater rate than other cancers, including breast, prostate, and lungs. While funding for pediatric AIDS is four times greater than that of pediatric cancer, twice as many children die from cancer in one month than die from AIDS in one year in the US. On the front lines of this battle are parents of survivors, current patients, and parents of children who died from their cancer.

The Luke Neuhedel Foundation was founded in 2002 after the death of little Luke Neuhedel, diagnosed at age nine months with hepatoblastoma, a very rare, pediatric liver cancer. Predicted to live less than a week with the grapefruit-size tumor on his liver, Luke lived a brave and miraculous three years with his cancer, fighting for every day. In this spirit his parents, family, and friends founded LNF to help other children and their parents in their battle.

In four years LNF has provided thousands of dollars in financial assistance, sponsored many events for children with cancer and their families, distributed tens of thousands of toys and Christmas and birthday presents, and reminded the public of the challenges faced by brave children living with cancer every day. LNF is managed solely by volunteers under the direction of Luke’s mom, who volunteers 40 hours a week to speak for parents involved in the fight for their child’s life.

Each September as children eagerly begin a new school year, LNF remembers the thousands of children living in a hospital room who cannot join their classmates, and the thousands more who have died. The Luke Neuhedel Foundation sponsors several events this month to further awareness and to raise funds for families in dire need.

September is the month LNF collects new toys for children in hospitals across the US. Anything is accepted except stuffed animals. All stuffed animals, even new ones, contain germs which can harm or even kill a child with a suppressed immune system. LNF also accepts any of the following used items: inkjet cartridges and cell phones, which are recycled to raise funds; Gameboys and games, CD players and CDs, and laptops, which are given to children in hospitals and to clinics across the US.

Through October 1, LNF is holding an Awareness Raffle for a NY Mets jersey autographed by more than 20 members of the 1986 World Championship team, including Hall of Famer Gary Carter, Team Captain Keith Hernandez, Dwight “Doc” Gooden, Darryl Strawberry, Ray Knight, Mookie Wilson, Manager Davey Johnson, and others. The jersey includes a Certificate of Authenticity and receipt, is one of only 86, and is valued at over $1000. Raffle tickets are available at $10 per chance or three chances for $25 from LNF at PO Box 137, Massapequa Park NY 11762.

From September 16-24 LNF is holding an Online Celebrity Auction on their website, Almost 100 celebrities have autographed copies of LNF’s self-published inspirational book about Luke titled “Loving Luke.” Other autographed items have also been donated. All proceeds will provide for children with cancer, paying rent, mortgages, hospital bills, medication, and funeral expenses.

Supporters can also help kids fighting cancer by remembering the Luke Neuhedel Foundation when they shop online through, or when they surf the internet through LNF is registered with both groups, who make a donation to LNF when someone shops or surfs in LNF’s name. The Luke Neuhedel Foundation also has awareness and inspirational items available for sale at Café Press in their shop, titled “Noodle Soup 4 the Soul.” Included among these items are shirts and mugs with the artwork of celebrities.

More ideas: LNF creates handmade favors for weddings, parties, anniversaries, and other special events in exchange for a very reasonable donation. Details are available at All of LNF’s projects are the suggestions of volunteers, many of them children seeking to help their peers.

The goal of LNF and its supporters is to make pediatric cancer an oxymoron. No one should face cancer, but the faces of children with cancer are especially touching. Like Luke, they usually meet the challenge of their treatment with brave smiles. The Luke Neuhedel Foundation hopes you will join this fight. LNF can be reached at, or LNF, PO Box 137, Massapequa Park NY 11762.

Updated 3:40 pm, October 19, 2011
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