Meet the Board Members
As 2021 rolls in and we approach our seventh year as an established foundation, we wanted all of you to get to know our amazing Board of Directors. Each one of these individuals works tirelessly to continue our fight against childhood and pediatric brain cancers. In this week’s blog, we’re introducing you to our Board Officers as well as the members of our Awareness Committee!
“Also known as ‘Little E’s mom’, I am a Special Education Teacher from West Pittston, PA. Currently, I am acting as the Foundation’s president and am also a member of the Assisting Committee. In my free time, I like to spend time with my kids, take walks, binge watch TV, clean, swim, and read.”
When asked why Jessica and her husband Eric decided to start Little Eric’s Foundation, she said “I needed to do something to help kids have a better chance at a life after a cancer diagnosis. The fact that only 4% of cancer funding goes to pediatrics is outrageous. Eric, and all other kids going through cancer deserve more.”
Funding Committee Chairman
“Also known as ‘Little E’s dad,’ I am a civil engineer residing in West Pittston, PA. I am LEF’s acting Vice President and am also the Chair of the Funding Committee. I love to hunt, fish, coach my son’s sports teams, take walks, and go bike riding in my free time.”
On creating Little Eric’s Foundation with his wife Jessica, Eric said, “Throughout Eric Jr’s treatments, we learned firsthand the toll that the treatments take on the patient and the family...physically, emotionally, and financially. We also learned that pediatric cancer research is severely underfunded. I helped create Little Eric’s Foundation to increase awareness of this fact, to help raise the much needed money that pediatric cancer research lacks, and to also assist the families of children who are fighting their own battle with cancer.”
“I am a retired nurse from West Pittston, PA. I am LEF’s Secretary and am also a part of the Awareness Committee. I love to golf, exercise, read, do jigsaw puzzles, take long walks with my dog Lincoln, and volunteer at my church in my free time.”
Rosalie joined Little Eric’s Foundation because “Little Eric was my grandson. As I watched helplessly while he went from one treatment and surgery to another, without success, it made me see and understand the need to fund Pediatric Cancer Research. The experience exposed me to other children going through treatment and the pain in the eyes of their parents and families. I loved my grandson deeply and so I decided to continue his fight to find a cure for childhood cancers.”
“Originally from Northeast PA and now residing in Plains, PA, I am a District Representative for the Pennsylvania Lottery. I’m currently residing as the Foundation’s Treasurer and am also on the Funding Committee. In my free time, I enjoy playing golf, watching the Philadelphia Flyers, and spending time with my family and friends.”
When asked why he joined Little Eric’s Foundation, Donald said, “Eric is my grandson and I feel very honored to be a member of the Board of Directors of Little Eric's Foundation to help fund research to fight childhood cancer. No child should have to endure what He and other children went through to fight this disease. It is my hope that with our work and donations we can help eliminate childhood cancers. I will never forget him and he will always be in my heart.”
Awareness Committee Co-Chairman
“I am a social media and communications coordinator that is currently residing in Philadelphia, PA. I’m currently the Foundation’s Social Media Director and am the Co-Chair of the Awareness Committee. Watching sports (I’m a diehard Philadelphia Flyers fan), hanging out with my friends and family, painting, listening to music, binge watching Netflix, and going on hikes are all things I love to do in my free time.”
On joining Little Eric’s Foundation, Tyler said, “Eric was my cousin, but in reality I considered him another brother and my hero. After he passed, I wanted to continue on his legacy. What better way to do that then to help continue the fight against childhood cancer in his honor?”
Awareness Committee Co-Chairman
“I’m a Mechanical Engineer that is currently residing in Wilkes-Barre, PA. Currently, I am the Co-Chair of LEF’s Awareness Committee. Outside of work, free time usually means some sort of youth sports coaching, mainly baseball and basketball.”
When asked why he wanted to join Little Eric’s Foundation, AJ said, “After seeing everything that Eric and his family had to go through, I knew I wanted to make some sort of difference in the lives of others dealing with this terrible disease. I am hopeful that LEF can provide that difference.”
“I’m from Newtown, in Lower Bucks County, PA. I’m a member of the LEF’s Awareness Committee. Currently, I am training to be a flavorist, so I design and develop ways to improve the taste of food and drink. In my free time, I love keeping up with my friends, working out, watching documentaries and reality TV, and anything involving dogs! I have also been learning German, which has been fun.”
On why she wanted to join Little Eric’s Foundation, Avonlea said, “For some time, I witnessed firsthand how Little Eric's Foundation has been making a difference in the lives of children, their families, and the greater community. As I became more involved over the years, I knew I needed to further their mission and join the board. I am thrilled LEF has a strong relationship with incredible researchers, and I hope to one day live in a world where no child faces life with cancer.”
“Currently residing in Bear Creek Township, PA, I am retired from InterMetro Industries Finance Department. I currently serve on the Foundation’s Awareness Committee. In my free time, I enjoy exercising, reading, and doing jigsaw puzzles.”
When asked why Anne wanted to be a part of Little Eric’s Foundation, she said, “I am Eric’s grandmother, so I witnessed everything Eric Jr. and our family had to go through. I want to raise money for research so other families can have their child cured.”
“I grew up in Ramsey, NJ but I currently live in West Pittston, PA and I am a special education teacher for grades 9 through 12. I am also a member of the Awareness Committee for LEF. I enjoy reading, baking, cooking, and spending time with my family and friends in my free time.”
On why Lauren wanted to join Little Eric’s Foundation, she said, “LEF holds a special place in our hearts and my entire family gets involved in any way that we can to show our support for Little Eric and his family. When I was asked to join the board, I was happy to become an even bigger part of the amazing things we get to do to honor Little Eric’s memory and help other children and their families fight their courageous battles.”
Stay tuned for our next installment of “Meet the Board Members” to get to know more!
Running Towards a Cure: the 31 Days of May Challenge
During the Covid-19 Pandemic, raising money to support our goals can be difficult. In light of this, two of our board members, Tyler Bonita and Katherine Sokirka, found a very unique way to stay safe, social distance, exercise and raise money for the "31 Days of May" challenge for the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
As many of you know by now, Little Eric passed away from brain cancer at the age of 14. Since May was Brain Cancer Awareness Month, our organization wanted to knock this challenge out of the park. Our initial goal was to raise $3,400, which, while it may not have seemed like a “homerun” type of dollar amount, it felt like a pretty big task to all of us. Turns out, we were wrong. By the time the 31 days came to an end, our final fundraiser amount was $10,000. We didn’t just hit a homerun, we hit a grand slam.
The team itself consisted of 36 board members, family, and friends who were all looking to keep off some of those extra quarantine pounds and raise some money in the "31 Days of May" challenge. For the month of May, all of the participants were asked to pledge between 31 to 100 miles of physical activity, including walking, biking and running. Together, our team completed a total of 4,201 miles and raised over $10,000 for pediatric cancer.
So, this is the part where we say thank you. To everyone that walked, ran, and biked for our team, we couldn’t have done this without all of you and your hard work. To all of the donors, we especially could not have done it without you.
Because of all of your generosity, Little Eric’s Foundation placed second out of all teams in the event. That’s $10,000 more towards finding a cure for pediatric cancers.
Let’s keep going.
Ependymoma Awareness Day - May 3, 2020
May is Brain Cancer Awareness Month, and as many of you know, our Eric fought a long, hard battle with brain cancer.
In 2011, after his first brain surgery to remove a mass on his brain, it was discovered that Eric had brain cancer. The specific type of brain cancer he had turned out to be Grade 3 Anaplastic Ependymoma. Since May third is Ependymoma Awareness Day, here are some facts about the disease:
- Ependymoma is an incredibly rare form of brain cancer, representing only 1.9% of all primary brain and central nervous system (CNS) tumors.
- The severity ranges from Grade I to Grade IV, with the survival rate lessening at the more severe stages.
- The treatment for ependymoma requires surgical removal of the tumor, radiation, and chemotherapy.
- Clinical trials are very rare and have yet to be proven successful (Ivy Brain Tumor Center).
There are many side effects that come from brain tumor treatments. Not only do they affect the patient, but they have a large impact on family members as well.
Eric had not one, not two, but three brain surgeries. Over time, our family witnessed him struggle through extensive nerve damage. He had to learn how to walk, talk, and do basic life functions all over again. Unfortunately, these are only some of the milder side effects. Some more severe ones include blood clots, seizures, swelling of the brain, and more (CERN). We were fortunate in this way, and that is all thanks to the specialized doctors that cared for Eric.
Chemotherapy is designed to attack fast growing cells like ones that form brain tumors. However, some normal cells are also affected. Some of the side effects include:
- Hair loss
- Higher risk of infection
Eric did lose his hair and often slept a lot, but it was the higher risk of infection that we were always worried about. Whenever flu season came around, extra precautions were always necessary. Even smaller illnesses like the common cold had to be taken very seriously.
The bottom line and most important point of all is that Ependymoma is a very rare form of brain cancer and there is no real cure. As our family has seen, current treatment methods can only go so far. It is time that we raise more awareness about this disease and provide more funding to find a cure.