Source: Chicago Tribune / Frank Vaisvilas
“Star Wars” characters, Chicago sports team mascots and firefighters were on hand Saturday to create a day of joy for children battling cancer at St. Xavier University in Chicago.
The fifth annual Fire Up a Cure fundraiser was started by Dr. Jason Canner, a pediatrician and oncologist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn.
Canner said the event has raised about $200,000 since it started and was on track to raise about $75,000 this year. The first year it drew about 250 people, now about 2,000 attend, he said.
“We want it to be bigger,” Canner said, adding that pediatric cancer research is “underfunded.”
Last year, event organizers donated $100,000 to a pediatric cancer research program called Project: Every Child conducted by the Children’s Oncology Group.
One in 285 children was diagnosed with cancer in 2014, according to the Coalition Against Childhood Cancer, and about 17 percent of children with cancer will die within five years of diagnosis.
But Canner said significantly lowering those rates is an achievable goal and he believes the unique fundraising event he helped start can make a real impact.
Besides offering photo opportunities with the likes of the Chicago White Sox mascot Southpaw and Tommy Hawk, the mascot for the Chicago Blackhawks, the main attraction was the competition in which firefighting companies face off against each other in challenges that include an obstacle course, a tug of war and an event in which 40,000-pound firetrucks are pushed by hand.