FAIRFIELD, Conn. When Dana McCreesh's son Brent was diagnosed with cancer at age 2½, the only thing she thought about was getting him cured. Six years later, Brent is a healthy third-grader, but his experience has led to something far bigger, something that has helped other kids in the same situation and might someday help find a cure for childhood cancer.
"When Brent was first diagnosed we had so many people offer to help," McCressh recalled. "We decided to channel all that energy into fighting the disease, so we started Team Brent . We had no idea it would grow into what it did."
What Team Brent has become is a local force that brings together people of all ages in various fundraisers for cancer care and research. "It's been amazing," said McCreesh. "We've had so many kids, some as young as pre-school, coming together to help other kids. That's really gratifying to me as a parent."
The group raised enough money $5.7 million to build a room at the Dana Farber Institute in Boston that has already treated 27 young cancer patients. The money has also funded researchers and gene studies in the disease.
Although there are dozens of small events, the group's two big fundraisers are the Pan-Mass Challenge, a 192-mile bike ride in the summer, and St. Baldrick's, where people obtain pledges in return for shaving their heads. Last year, Brent participated in St. Baldrick's for the first time, going bald not only to raise money but to show solidarity with cancer patients who often lose their hair due to chemotherapy. "It showed he'd crossed over to the other side," said McCreesh.
"When Brent was diagnosed, his chances of survival were 20 to 25 percent," McCreesh said. "But 10 or 15 years earlier, they would have been zero. Childhood cancer has struck far too often in Fairfield. We've been to too many funerals. We owe it to those people to keep fighting, and find a cure."
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