A local group of women have spearheaded the fight against childhood cancer by running — and they’re taking their efforts all over North America.
The group, called the Team 4 Hope, is dedicated to raising awareness and funds for neuroblastoma research in B.C. The team was founded in 2011 by Lisa Hopkins whose 14-year-old son Jordan was diagnosed with neuroblastoma when he was only two.
Jordan is now healthy and cancer free, but as Lisa explained, this isn’t a usual outcome for those diagnosed with the aggressive form of childhood cancer.
“When Jordan was diagnosed the one thing I remember when I asked about the odds of him beating it was the doctors telling me, ‘well there’s always hope.’ That’s always stuck with me so on the 10 year anniversary of his diagnosis I decided to start the Team 4 Hope,” she explained.
Unfortunately, Hopkins continued, the outcome that Jordan experienced after being diagnosed with neuroblastoma is rare.
“There have been eight children who we’ve known on the lower Island who were recently diagnosed with neuroblastoma,” she said.
“Out of those eight, only three are in remission, three have passed away and two have relapsed, so those numbers speak for themselves. There’s been limited research on neuroblastoma and the survival rate hasn’t changed much over the last 20 years.”
Hopkins also noted that the current treatment for neuroblastoma is one of the most high intensity cancer treatments used and there are many unknowns when it comes to long term effects of the chemotherapy and radiation.
“We don’t know yet what type of repercussions could come from the treatments but it’s not uncommon for those who’ve been treated for neuroblastoma as children to be diagnosed with secondary cancers from the treatment. That’s why we need to raise awareness and funds for research on how to fight it.”
Money raised by the team goes to the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation — where much of the province’s childhood cancer patients are treated — as well as the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre, which is run by the B.C. Cancer Agency.
“There’s a lot going on in the world of childhood cancers,” said Hopkins, “including a new program through Genome Centre which is focusing on personalized medicine programs.”
Rallying for the cause
When Lisa Hopkins decided to start Team 4 Hope in 2011 her sister-in-law, Colette, got on board right away.
“Because neuroblastoma was something we’d dealt with in our family, I was eager to get on board,” said Colette.
“We decided to start a running team and it has just blossomed from there.”
The Team 4 Hope is made up of 13 members, four of which (including Colette) are from the Saanich Peninsula.
The group has become known as the largest neuroblastoma fundraisers in all of Western Canada (last year they raised more than $106,000 for the cause) and hold many of their fundraising events locally.
This year, the team is taking their fundraising to the U.S. by sending runners from the team to the Vegas Rock N Roll Half Marathon, one of only two events that shuts down the Las Vegas Strip each year (New Year’s eve is the other).
“We’ll also have a team in the Godess Run coming up here in Victoria and a team in the Lululemon Sea Wheeze Half Marathon in Vancouver, so we have lots of going on,” said Colette.
The team will be putting on several local fundraising events this year including the popular Touch a Truck event at Panorama Recreation Centre which was a huge success last year.
“We had huge response this year from people wanting to get involved in our fundraising efforts,” said Colette. “If there’s one thing the team has taught me it’s that a small group can have a big impact.”
The Touch a Truck event will feature close to 30 different types of vehicles on display in Panorama’s parking lot including police cruisers, fire trucks, ambulances, excavators, cement trucks, a limousine and an ice resurfacer.
Colette said tickets are already selling fast and can be bought from the team’s website.
Visit www.team 4hope.com for more information and to purchase event tickets.