“It’s imperative for parents, organizations and private foundations to step into gap federal government isn’t filling,” co-founder says

AUGUSTA, GA (WFXG) - Tara Simkins’ son, Brennan, was diagnosed with cancer the day before his seventh birthday in 2009.

“He had a particularly devastating form of leukemia called AML, and it has a lower cure rate than others," explained Press On Fund co-founder Tara Simkins.

He was treated locally, then in Atlanta, where his family was told to prepare for the worst.

“100 days after his transplant, he relapsed. We were told there are no curative options. To go to Disney World and call hospice," Simkins recalled.

But that wasn’t an option. The Simkins and their friends, Stephen and Erin Chance, whose child was also battling cancer, kept looking for answers.

The Simkins found hope at St. Jude’s in Memphis, Tenn. Brennan is now 17.

Together, both families formed Press On Fund with a goal to bring the hope of groundbreaking research to Augusta by pledging $1 million to support pediatric cancer programs at Augusta University. It will be dispersed over a four-year period. The gift will create the Press On Pediatric Cancer Fund at Georgia Cancer Center and will support the Pediatric Immunotherapy Program, according to a news release from Augusta University. That will include expenses related to research and essential needs, specifically associated with a pediatric bone marrow transplant program.

Augusta University President Dr. Brooks Keel said, "You almost can’t put in words how important today is.”

This donation will help clinicians at the Georgia Cancer Center continue bench to bedside immunotherapy research.

“That work started with the basic science researches at the laboratory bench. Coming up with new and exciting mechanisms to treat cancer. And then translating that process into the patient through clinical trials," Dr. Keel said.

Local treatments that will hopefully contribute to longer lives.

Augusta University is always looking to raise money. There’s a lot of work to do, the president said. The President’s Gala, the hospital’s main fundraising event, is this weekend. All money raised will go to Children’s Hospital for more research and programs like this.

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