Fighting For a Cure 7

Students Supporting Brain Tumor Research Aims to Help End Brain Tumor Disease

It’s not something you often hear about on T.V. or read in the news, and it rarely comes up in conversations. It’s not something you really even think about, and it’s certainly not something you ever expect to face. Yet it’s still there; and can come on in swift, silent and unexpected ways.

Today, brain tumors are the number one cause of tumor cancer deaths in children through high school age teens and the second leading cause of cancer deaths for young adults ages 20 to 39. It takes people on a journey of uncertainty, fear and doubt, with days spent in hospitals trying new medications and procedures. Yet despite these grim statistics, there is still hope. For every person who is lost to brain tumor disease there is also a story of triumph—someone who has won the battle and is now looking at a brighter future.

A large number of these success stories are made possible by the work of facilities dedicated to researching brain tumors in children and young adults. There’s also non-profit organizations like Students Supporting Brain Tumor Research (SSBTR)—completely student-run in Arizona—that are tirelessly devoted to promoting awareness about brain tumors and raising funds for research in hopes of one day finding a cure for the disease.

“We work closely and help fund research at local hospitals and research labs like TGen, Barrow’s and Phoenix Children’s Hospital, as well as nationally with the National Brain Tumor Society,” says Wendy Kaye, pediatrician and president of SSBTR.

A fairly new organization, SSBTR was founded in 2002 by Pinnacle High School Student Council Advisor Steve Glassman, and has been making amazing strides in the community ever since.

“What I’ve been so impressed with is how our organization has been able to influence those that we fund,” says Martin Kaye, pediatrician and Wendy’s husband. “They are now starting to work together to accomplish greater things, which is really gratifying to see.”

At the center of SSBTR’s fundraising efforts is their annual walk-a-thon that’s held on the last Saturday of February at Saguaro High School. The three-hour long event starts off on a touching note with brain tumor survivors taking a lap, followed by those who have lost loved ones to the disease, before everyone else joins the walking and carnival-like fun.

“That’s the thing, not a lot of people really know about [brain tumor disease], yet it’s so prominent in our society. So I think just getting the word out there about it will help everyone,” says Dean Milner, SSBTR treasurer and Basis Scottsdale sophomore.

The brain power behind everything accomplished at the walk-a-thon, and at the very heart of SSBTR, are the students who run it. The event is entirely produced by the student co-chairs, and each year these passionate and dedicated individuals get together to organize it, raise funds for research and come up with new and innovative ways to promote awareness about brain tumors.

“It’s really been wonderful to see these students evolve from when they first start out as co-chairs to maturing and developing and really assuming their roles as leaders,” says Wendy.

Some members seek out SSBTR already having personal experience with brain tumor disease, while others join because they want to learn more; yet they all soon become devoted to this organization that really gives so much back.

“I heard of the organization because I had a brain tumor myself and it (SSBTR) has been so wonderful that I would like to stay and support in any way that I can,” says Braden Waymire, co-chair and Paradise Valley High School (PVHS) freshman.

“I joined with my brother Braden because he’s the strongest person I know and I want to help other people like him be as successful as he was,” adds Gavin Waymire, PVHS sophomore.

And the takeaway for the students has been truly life-changing.

“The biggest thing I’ve gotten [from SSBTR] is that I’ve met so many extraordinary people who’ve also had brain tumors like me that the organization has helped,” says Braden.

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A Few Words from the Co-Chairs of SSBTR…

“I’ve met a lot of really amazing people and it’s just really amazing to know that you’re making a difference with brain tumor research.” Diana Stabile, junior, Chaparral High School

“I would just like to help the lives of others, like I said, whether that be connecting them with other people that they can relate to or curing brain tumor disease.” Braden Waymire, freshman, Paradise Valley High School

“My most important takeaway is probably the inspiration that the survivors have given me, and meeting people like Braden, it just enlightens you and you just become so invested in it.” Dean Milner, sophomore, Basis Scottsdale

“I just hope to help other people who struggle with this and to get the word out about it because it’s the biggest cancer killer of teens in America so it’s a big deal and it means a lot to get out and help other people who have this.” – Gavin Waymire, sophomore, Paradise Valley High School

“I like knowing that every single day I am helping someone and that I am part of a family that has the same interests and goals as I do” Payton Mueller, sophomore, Notre Dame Preparatory

“There is sadly no cure for brain tumors yet, so my goal is to help them find this cure. Many people associated with SSBTR have or had brain tumors; our goal is to help them. Lillian Mueller, Scottsdale Preparatory.