There is nothing more heartbreaking than a sick child. For parents whose children have life threatening diseases that debilitate them and leave them exhausted, weak and unable to live the life of a normal kid, it is crucial to know where to turn to for help. Fortunately, there are hundreds of organizations out there that lend a helping hand, and The Children’s Leukemia Research Association Inc. (CLRA) is one of them. Angela Russo is the executive director of the nonprofit, 501(c)(3) charity that offers grants toward research organizations and financial assistance for those undergoing treatment. As September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, Russo and the CLRA are raising awareness for leukemia and how far research has come.
Q: Tell me about your role as executive director of Children’s Leukemia Research Association.
A: My duties include all-inclusive administrative and operational aspects of managing the organization, including marketing, advertising and fundraising. I am additionally accountable to the board of trustees to ensure our two-prong mission of funding research grants and financially assisting Leukemia victims of all ages is realized while ensuring fiscal responsibility and compliance.
Q: I know that CLRA provides funding to children and adults who are being treated for leukemia. What else does the organization assist with?
A: Each year, CLRA’s medical advisory committee, consisting of prominent internationally known and respected hematologists, reviews submitted research proposals from doctors nationwide. The objectives of this committee are to direct the funds of the association into the most promising projects, and where funding would not duplicate other funding sources. Our medical advisory team have recently reviewed requested research grants submitted and have recommended we fund research for University of South Carolina, Stanford, Roswell Park, Columbia University and Dana Farber Institute.
Q: September is Blood Cancer Awareness Month, so what does CLRA do to raise awareness for this?
A: Our organization is publicizing Blood Cancer Awareness Month by utilizing website and Facebook postings, local media advertising, email blasts and thank you cards to supporting donors.
Q: How do you garner attention for fundraising efforts and get the word out about the foundation?
A: As a result of our 2018 rebranding, reorganizing and rebuilding we are currently tapping into all affordable resources to raise funds. Since its inception in 1965, CLRA was known as the National Leukemia Research Association. As a result, not much effort was allocated into publicizing our association on a local level. Upon my joining CLRA last July, it was most evident that our own community, along with all of New York and Long Island, had very little knowledge of our work. Considering Long Island has the highest cost of living due to our tax structure, and CLRA offers patient aid to middle/working class leukemia victims of all ages, my priority was getting the word out locally.
Q: What types of research is being done today that wasn’t being done 10 years ago for leukemia?
A: Acute promyelocytic leukemia used to be uniformly fatal. Now 70-80 percent of adults can be cured. This represents 10 percent of all adult acute myeloid leukemia. Acute lymphocytic leukemia in children used to be 90 percent fatal, now 90 percent are cured. Chronic myeloid leukemia in adults, 90 percent used to die within four years, now 90 percent survive at least 15 years and some are cured off all medications.
Q: Do you have any fundraising events or meetings coming up that we can promote or draw attention to?
A: At this point in time we have no fundraisers scheduled, however we do have a significant board meeting coming up that will focus on the progress over the past year regarding all the components of the rebranding and reorganization and utilizing all data to concentrate on 2020 fundraising efforts.
It is vital that our Long Island community becomes aware of the Children’s Leukemia Research Association because we help the victims of leukemia of all ages within the middle/working socioeconomic populace. One does not need to be below or at the poverty income line to qualify for aid. The greatest challenge we are currently facing is raising enough funds to remain viable and continue helping patients and funding research.
The Children’s Leukemia Research Association is located at 585 Stewart Ave, Suite 520 in Garden City. For more information, call 516-222-1944 or visit www.childrensleukemia.org.