WOOD-RIDGE, N.J. -- A Wood-Ridge couple whose 13-year-old son died of leukemia is holding its 3rd annual “Ladies Night Out” at the Fiesta in the hopes of increasing scarce funding for pediatric cancer research.
Benjamin’s Hope 4 the Future foundation — which is sponsoring the Nov. 19 event -- was named for Linda and Richard Venezia's first-born son, who died in December 2012.
The shop/dine/mingle “Ladies Night Out” will run from 6:30-11 p.m. and feature a four-course dinner, dessert and wine, along with raffles, door prizes, dancing and several vendors.
Tickets are $55 until Friday, Oct. 16, when they go to $65.
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Last year the foundation funded a $15,000 research grant to the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center for an AML (Acute Myeloid Leukemia) immunotherapy project. It's also provided $3,430 in aid to pediatric cancer families and $1,000 scholarships the past two years.
“Only 4% of funding is allocated to pediatric cancer research, and only two new drugs for children have been developed within the 20 years,” the Venezias note.
The couple received Benjamin’s leukemia diagnosis 11 days after his 13th birthday, when he was admitted to the hospital with a white cell count over 219,000. He was later diagnosed with AML.
After several rounds of ineffective chemotherapy, Benjamin had a bone marrow transplant. He was determined to graduate from 8th grade, but he didn’t make it to Christmas.
“Mom, my body aches,” Benjamin said to his mother after doctors sent him home.
Among many life-shattering lessons, the Venezias said, was the fact that Benjamin was being treated for a very aggressive cancer that standard drugs don't address.
“A computer system chose our son's treatment plan -- not his doctors, not his parents but a random selection made by a computer program,” they said. "[It] chose the standard treatment plan....We now are left to wonder whether the outcome could have been different had Benjamin been chosen for the alternate treatment, which offered a different drug.
“The lack of pediatric cancer drugs for AML killed our son. The lack of funding for pediatric cancer killed our son.
“We live in a world where the impossible is possible,” they said. "We cannot continue to avoid funding pediatric cancer research and need to start developing new drugs that actually [work]."
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