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Frequently Asked Questions
The Caroline Symmes Children’s Cancer Endowment for Pediatric Cancer Research was created by David and Libby Symmes in memory of their daughter. Caroline was diagnosed with Wilms Tumor Disease a month before her fourth birthday. This type of cancer has an extremely high cure rate. But quickly, David and Libby learned that it didn’t matter the cure rate, that each cancer or tumor was unique to a child’s body, and that Caroline’s tumor was very aggressive. Over a 16 month period and after numerous treatments ranging from surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation and a stem cell transplant, Caroline passed away at the age of 5.
The mission of the Caroline Symmes Children’s Cancer Endowment is to raise crucial funds for researchers at Riley Hospital for Children. This is done through two endowed funds; one supports Dr. Jamie Renbarger and her team who specifically work in Precision Genomics. This Precision Genomics Program researches pediatric Non-CNS Solid tumors. These are tumors in children, such as Neuroblastoma, Osteosarcoma, Ewing Sarcoma, and Retinoblastoma, all of which occur outside the central nervous system (CNS) in places like bone, muscle and vital organs. Their focus is on specific personalized drug therapy research that is unique to each child’s body’s ability to tolerate his/her therapy and to maximize outcomes. The second fund, newly established in early 2021, is used to research all types of childhood cancers, which is essential since cancer remains the #1 cause of death by disease for kids in America.
All donations, through fundraisers, partnerships and individual donors, goes to two Endowment funds at Riley Children’s Health. The initial fund supports Dr. Jamie Renbarger and her Precision Genomics team. The second endowed fund started in late 2020, supports researchers in a specific research lab at Riley Children’s Health, and they are searching for therapies and cures for all childhood cancers.
Caroline was treated at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health. When she lost her life at 5 years old, David and Libby Symmes knew they needed to do something because of the lack of funding for childhood cancers. In 2011 they created the Caroline Symmes Cancer Endowment and in 2014 became a 501(c)(3), with all donations going towards research taking place in labs at the hospital that cared for their daughter.
At the beginning of 2019, we sent out applications searching for high school students around Central Indiana who wanted to become involved with the Endowment by joining the inaugural Teen Board. We were overwhelmed when we received over 50 applications. Since then, each year we receive a high number of applications of very well-deserving high school students, who want to replace the graduating seniors and make a difference. After review of applications and interviews, the Endowment Leadership chooses new additions, while keeping the Teen Board to a size of 20-25 students. The representation has averaged between seven and ten surrounding high schools.
The Teen Board's key goals are to individually create peer-to-peer fundraising efforts; develop events, such as Runway for Riley, that the full board implements; marketing their efforts through social media avenues and selling Endowment merchandise.
Meet our current Teen Board here.
Our donations come from several sources: fundraisers, partnerships and individual donations.
As of late 2020, we have raised $3.3 million specifically for the Precision Genomics Program and the research of pediatric Non-CNS Solid tumors at Riley Children’s Health. In early 2021 we committed to raising $1.5 million for a newly established fund, which will be used to research all types of childhood cancers at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University Health.