Some say it takes a village, but for Derek Zacchino, 17, of Bethpage, LI, it took his friends, coaches, teachers — and the support of a very loving family — to raise $21,016 for pediatric cancer research at Cohen Children’s Medical Center.
Derek, who was diagnosed with a brain tumor in September of last year, is an avid hockey fan, as well as a popular player on his high school team. When his friends and teammates learned of his diagnosis, they knew they had to do something to support Derek and his family. So, a plan was launched to organize a “Stick it to Cancer” fundraiser.
Through the sale of T-shirts bearing the name of the case, organized donation drives and a fundraising game held on December 19, the hockey team was able to raise what Derek’s doctor referred to as “a very substantial amount” during a check presentation held at the hospital. The team chipped in an extra $16 in honor of Derek’s jersey number.
“We are so pleased to announce that the funds raised from the ‘Stick it to Cancer’ fundraiser will support a critical research initiative at our hospital,” said Mark Atlas, MD, pediatric hematologist/oncologist at Cohen Children’s and Derek’s physician. “Just like it takes a team to win a game, it takes an entire team of hospital staff to work towards our goal of finding a cure for pediatric brain tumors. Your dedication and hard work shows what can happen. When people come together, we can really change the world.”
Following his diagnosis, Derek was forced to sit out several games; his teammates went ahead with plans for a fundraising game to take place on December 19 at the Oyster Bay Ice Rink without Derek. Late in the afternoon of December 19, Derek and his family received incredible news – he had been cleared to play in the big game. In a stunning display of teamwork, the Bethpage High School hockey team, featuring No. 16 on the ice that night, handily defeated their Oceanside opponents.
The Division of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology and Stem Cell Transplantation at Cohen Children’s sees more than 200 new diagnoses each year. This donation, according to Dr. Atlas, “will expand our research footprint by supporting the Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Trials Office (PHOTO).
This fundraising effort will benefit Cohen Children’s as part of Northwell’s $1 billion Outpacing the Impossible campaign, which supports capital projects, improves hospitals and clinical programs, advances research and funds endowment for teaching and research initiatives.
“PHOTO is the name of our research initiative that aims to centralize resources for our division from which to design, open, and operate a broad range of clinical trials for our patient populations,” Dr. Atlas said. “We understand that cancer research, especially brain tumor research, is necessary so that we can find better, safer solutions to treat the tumors and stop the spread of disease.”