Meet Mindi Finch. She has a blog. She’s feisty. She rules.


What YOU need to know about Childhood Cancer Research Funding. From the fabulous People Against Childhood Cancer (PAC2)



2010 Summary

So, where does the money go: Childhood Cancer Research Funding (2010) – People Against Childhood Cancer

Prior to Fathers Day 2007, I had not given much thought to how funding for cancer research worked. That all changed. I thought we would share some thoughts and observations based on my own experiences and our research. This only seeks to inform, raise questions and to provide a platform for discussion. Nowhere in here will we suggest what charity you should support. But, without the right amount of funds directed towards the right research, PAC2 will only continue to grow, and we really want to shut it down. Let’s just look at a few of the groups competing for your money.


  • HOSPITALS: it may be difficult to determine what percentage of a donation to a hospital would be directed towards research into childhood cancer. Donations may cover operating costs, research into other diseases, and/or childhood cancer research.
  • AMERICAN CANCER SOCIETY: In 2009 directed $0.007 (less than a penny) to childhood cancer research for every dollar of public support. (Total public support: $897,051,000 and total directed at childhood cancer research: $6,206,000. Source:ACS)
  • LEUKEMIA & LYMPHOMA SOCIETY: directed $0.02 to childhood cancer research for every dollar of public support. (Total public support: $287,625,000 and total directed at childhood cancer research: almost $6,000,000. Source LLS)
  • NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE: it’s your tax dollars at work. Over the past five years, it has directed between 3.6 and 4.0% of its total budget, an average of $176 million/year, to pediatric cancer. Why?


When a child is treated at a hospital, the hospital incurs costs and produces a bill for the treatment. The bill covers labor, drugs, supplies, new equipment, other operating costs and, if it has a facility, some is directed to research. Obviously not all hospitals have research labs, and the size and funding varies.

Many if not all hospitals have a fundraising arm. If you are at a facility that treats both adults and children, generally funds it collects support operating costs and additions the hospital may desire, and may go towards research. Research may be into treatment of any disease you can imagine. Some may go towards cancer research, both adult and childhood cancers. So, if you give to XXX Hospital, your money is directed towards many various causes, with an unknown portion related to childhood cancer research.

With hospitals, it would seem you need to ask if you can direct your donation to the cause you want to support.

Obviously, St. Jude is likely the hospital the majority of the public thinks of if and when they think of childhood cancer. Their marketing campaign is hugely successful. The post “What if….” has the actual data on St. Jude. In summary:

  • St. Jude treats less than 4% of all the kids with cancer.
  • St. Jude received $682 million in support (donations and bequest) and $82 million in grants from NCI, NIH, and, historically, organizations like CureSearch for Childhood Cancer, St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation and Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research.
  • St. Jude spent $282 million on research on all diseases, 36% of support.
  • St. Jude fundraising expenses were $135 million. ALSAC admin and general costs were $51 million.

The American Cancer Society

The mission statement of the American Cancer Society (ACS) reads: “Founded in 1913, the American Cancer Society (ACS) is the nationwide community-based voluntary health organization dedicated to eliminating cancer as a major health problem by preventing cancer, saving lives, and diminishing suffering from cancer, through research, education, advocacy, and service. With more than two million volunteers nationwide, the American Cancer Society is one of the oldest and largest voluntary health agencies in the United States. Headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, the ACS has state divisions and more than 3,400 local offices.”

Many chose to become involved with the ACS fundraising events, including the “Relay for Life”. The funds collected by the ACS are used for many causes. The numbers, in millions:

Childhood Cancer Research – $6.2

Other Research – $143

Prevention – $177

Detection/Treatment – $129

Patient Support – $275

Management – $63

Fundraising – $222

Looks black and white to us. The numbers speak for themselves with regard to the funding for childhood cancer, but just to be clear, 0.6% of funds are directed towards research to cure the entire suite of childhood cancers.
Imagine you participate in a Relay-For-Life. You raise $1,000. $270 (27%) goes to admin and fundraising costs. Only $150 goes to any research, and only $6 of that $1000 you raised is targeted towards childhood cancer.

The Stats
Overall, Charity Navigator gives ACS 3 of 4 stars but only 1 of 4 stars for efficiency. John Seffrin, Chief Executive Officer earns $685,884 or 0.06% of expenses. Program expenses (what it spends on the programs and services it exists to deliver) are 72%, management 6% and fundraising expenses 22%. Total revenue in 2009 was $897,051,000.


#1 -Are there ways to “direct” the money raised toward your cause? The ACS site provides the following options for “Donation Designation”; cancer research, breast cancer research, prostate cancer research, colorectal cancer research and lung cancer research. But is there a manner to direct your funds towards childhood cancer if your amount raised is significant?
#2 – Why, when less than 1% of the funds are directed at childhood cancer, do we see so many childhood cancer victims in the ACS literature?

(We know we’ll hear the “well research into adult cancers can benefit children” argument. Well, most adult cancers do not occur in children. And simple downsizing of adult doses is where we are at now, and the long term consequences have been demonstrated time and again and again and againto be simply unacceptable. We need targeted childhood cancer research!)

The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

From its website: “The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) is the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research, education and patient services. The mission of LLS is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Since its founding in 1949, LLS has invested more than $600 million for research specifically targeting blood cancers.”

We’re sure many of you have had excellent experiences with the LLS. Many chose to become involved with the LLS fundraising events, including the “Light the Night” and “Team in Training”. The funds collected by the LLS are used for many causes. The chart shows the various things supported (Year End 2009 data). The LLS has stated that almost $6 million of its $288 million in total public support is directed to childhood cancer. That equals $0.02 for every dollar of public support. The numbers, in millions:

Research – $69

Patient & Community Services – $92

Public Health Education – $43

Professional Education – $9

Management & General – $24

Fundraising – $45

Childhood Cancer – $6

So, you raise $1000 for LLS: $240 goes to LLS fundraising, general and management costs. $21 is directed to childhood cancer.

The Stats
Overall, Charity Navigator gives LLS 3 of 4 stars, and for fundraising efficiency, 2 of 4 stars. John Walter, the President, CEO earns $482,000 or 0.18% of expenses. Program expenses are 75%, admin 8% and fundraising expenses 18%. Total revenue last year was $277million.

#1 – Are there ways to “direct” the money raised toward your cause? I believe that national Light the Night teams raising over $100k may direct the funding? Anyone with experience?
#2 – As it is not readily apparent, has anyone seen the percentage of funds directed towards pediatric blood cancer research?

UPDATE – JULY 2009 – Here is a link to some information directly from LLS. Judge for yourself.

UPDATE – APRIL 2010 – We’re a little disturbed by LLS’s latest idea for fundraiser events. They’ve embarked on a Totally Baldacious campaign, where participants shave their heads. I know I’ve heard that one before….oh that’s right, St Baldricks has been doing that for many years solely in support of CHILDHOOD cancer research! Shame on you LLS…

UPDATE – AUGUST 2010 – from the LLS:

“LLS recently launched a research initiative focused on the long-term and late effects of today’s curative therapies – many of these quality-of-life limiting consequences impact pediatric patients differentially as children can live for decades after they are cured. LLS just committed more than $2 million to new projects in this research area, thanks to generous donors, and anticipate investing more than $5 million over the next 3 years, in order to make today’s cures safer.

We are also involved in the Alliance for Childhood Cancer – and the Pediatric Cancer Survivorship Legislation –

National Cancer Institute

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which is one of 11 agencies that compose the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The NCI, established under the National Cancer Institute Act of 1937, is the Federal Government’s principal agency for cancer research and training.

Here is the NCI total funding and the amount directed to childhood cancer over the past five years averages $176 million/year, and ranges between 3.6 and 4%. Over that same period, average NCI breast cancer funding was 24%, prostate 5% and lung 5%. During 2009 NCI did direct an additional $49 million in ARRA funds to support TARGET Research.

A portion of that NCI funding goes to the Children’s Oncology Group, through CureSearch – to the tune of $46 million for fiscal year ending Feb 2009. CureSearch then takes that funding and distributes it back to COG hospitals (more below).

Why is Federal funding for breast cancer five times the dollars per person life year lost when compared to childhood cancer funding? Why is Federal funding for prostate cancer, with a 99% five-year survival rate, nearly five times the total amount given to all types of childhood cancer? Why?

We challenge the entire paradigm of the NCI funding for cancer research. Have you ever known scientists who could manage? Think of cancer as a sinking ship, with all of us on-board. Who do we care for first? We get the women and children to safety. And we know many grieving Mom’s who would give up their seat to any child. But what we have is first class seating, funding, for adults.

And finally, consider this from our friends at KIDS V CANCER: “DID YOU KNOW? Research and development for new drugs from pharmaceutical companies comprises 60% of funding for adult cancer drugs and close to zero for childhood cancers. However, the NCI spends 96% of its budget on adult cancers and only 4% of its budget on children’s cancers.”.

Susan G Komen

Just for comparison….Susan G. Komen for the Cure, formerly known as Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, was established in 1982 by Nancy G. Brinker. Nancy promised her dying sister Susan that she would do everything in her power to end breast cancer forever. Today, Komen for the Cure is the world’s largest grassroots network of breast cancer survivors and activists fighting to save lives, empower people, ensure quality care for all and energize science to find the cures. Thanks to events like the Komen Race for the Cure, they have invested nearly $1 billion to fulfill our promise, becoming the largest source of nonprofit funds dedicated to the fight against breast cancer in the world.

Overall, Charity Navigator gives SGK 4 of 4 stars, same as last year. For fundraising efficiency, SGK receives 4 of 4 stars, same as last year. Hala G. Moddelmog, COO, earns $532,000 or 0.18% of expenses. Program expenses are 83%, admin 11% and fundraising expenses 7%. Total revenue last year was $299 million. Course…that’s before they started suing….

Childhood Cancer Research Focused Fundraising

The largest federally funded (mostly) organization is CureSearch. The CureSearch National Childhood Cancer Foundation is dedicated to raising private funds for childhood cancer research for the Children’s Oncology Group, the world’s largest cooperative cancer research organization. CureSearch Children’s Oncology Group is a network of 230 hospitals nationwide and more than 5,000 physicians, nurses, and scientists whose collaboration, research and care have turned childhood cancer from a virtually incurable disease to one with an overall 78% cure rate.

CureSearch/NCCF is the grantee for the Children’s Oncology Group from the National Cancer Institute. They receive funds from NCI and distribute them to more than 230 Children’s Oncology Group member institutions in North America and around the world in support of clinical trials. In addition, they raise private philanthropic and non-governmental funds, which they also use to support the Children’s Oncology Group.

For fiscal year ending Feb 2009, Charity Navigator gives CureSearch 4 of 4 stars. For efficiency, CureSearch receives 3 of 4 stars. Joseph Woelkers, Chairman, earns $287,00, or 0.49% of expenses. Gregroy H. Reaman, Executive Director, Scientific & Medical Affairs earns $391,000 or 0.67% of expenses. Program expenses are 95%, admin 3% and fundraising expenses 2%. Total revenue was $56 million. Revenue included $46.5 million from NCI and $13.3 million in donations, private grants and corporate grants.

Here is a map of COG hospitals, and a list of COG hospitals.

Obviously CureSearch is not the only childhood cancer charity. PAC2 has assembled a list of wonderful childhood cancer fundraising organizations here. Please consider CureSearchSt. Baldrick’sAlex’s Lemonade StandsThe Rally Foundation for Childhood Cancer Research and all the wonderful other organizations fighting for our kids. Here’s some great groups you can contact right here at PAC2. These guys direct money only to childhood cancer related causes, primarily research. And you’ve seen the PAC2 chevron picture…Awareness –> Funding –> Research –> CURE! you know why funding and research is needed!

Speaking from the heart, over the past 2-3 years, PAC2 has come to know, respect and believe in the great people in these organizations. We believe that they will find a cure. And we know they will work with you in virtually any capacity and are ALWAYS looking for leaders and volunteers. They will work with you directly to meet your needs. The best part is that the VAST majority (typically 80 – 90%) of any money you raise for them is directed towards cutting-edge research into childhood cancer. Period.

If we expand into other childhood cancer charities, there are so many other worthy causes that may not be research oriented but still need support; local family support organizations, the Ronald McDonald House, SuperSibs, American Childhood Cancer Organization, Make-A-Wish etc, etc. Not to mention the parent led Foundations, who may contribute to support, hospitals, or other. All needing your dollar.

Other diseases, local police, the United Way, March of Dimes, Red Cross, Save the Whales, World Wildlife Foundation, you get the idea. There are over 900,000 registered with the IRS. It must be a pretty competitive business eh?

The nature of the business is that it is a business. And we as consumers should know where our donations are going. And expect accountability. Transparency. Just like this note is attempting to be. If we’re wrong somewhere….please let us know.

In the end, it’s your call. Decide if you want $4 (ACS) or $21 (LLS) or, typically $800 (CC orgs on our list) of the $1000 you raise to go to childhood cancer research.

Research is the key to a cure.

Big Disclaimer – our thoughts, experiences and analysis of their financial data. We just wanted to inform and show the differences, raise a few questions for the community, and to say things that we think need to be said. We are NOT saying ACS or LLS is not right, they just aren’t focused on childhood cancer.

11 thoughts on “Meet Mindi Finch. She has a blog. She’s feisty. She rules.”

  1. The film that I saw goes with this. It’s called Burzynski – it’s about a doctor/scientist, who has been tremendously successful treating any type of cancer. FDA sued him 5 times and lost, because they are afraid they would lose their biggest source of income that comes from cancer research funding.
    Maya, I emailed you about this film, I think it would be too traumatizing for you to watch right now. But I encourage anyone, who cares to please take that 90 minutes and watch it. Especially if you know anyone who has cancer and has lost their hope.
    If you can’t watch the movie, please watch at least one video here:
    The movie is life-changing. I cannot express my anger with the medical community. This cure has been known for 30 years!!!!!!!

  2. Maya, I have a friend that is working in fundraising for Brain Cancer research. They got in contact with the Stand Up 2 Cancer folks. Asked a lot of questions – what amount of the fundraising is dedicated to breast cancer, prostate cancer, etc. Of course my friends Bob and Barb pushed and asked them how much goes to brain cancer research out of all those donations. The astonishing answer, after the Stand up 2 Cancer folks had to research and get back to them, was $0 (I’m not sure what year this was for). But really, 0$?!?! Big, fat goose egg. I wonder what the stats are for childrens’ cancer for the Stand Up 2 Cancer effort. Unfortunately, I think it’s probably similar to the brain cancer funds. You are going to make a difference, Maya, I know it.

  3. I wish I could take the credit for writing this! I’m awfully glad you found it, though. This came from the fantabulous folks over at People Against Childhood Cancer (PAC2).

    My writing can be found at

    Yes, I am a momcologist! Mommy to The Greginator, Curtis and AnnMarie in Spokane, WA. I am also a class of ’11 46 Momma. Working my butt off to fund childhood cancer research, reach out to my community and support everyone along the way.

    “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” ~ Chinese Proverb

  4. Susan G. Komen also gave $569K to Planned Parenthood. Without a political debate as to who deserves what and why…..Im sure there are many other companies that are less likely to be in the lime light that received similar donations as well….however, examples like this to me means neglect to our children and their future….in my opinion, this dollar amount could have been more beneficial in places like, pediatric cancer.

  5. Its hard to find breakdowns of where organizations spend our donations. I’ve been on tons of childhood cancer websites wondering who gives the most to research. The information isn’t there. All charities should post this information. I would rather give to some small organization that donates a higher percentage of its donations. Where does the money go for Ronan’s Foundation?

    1. Julie~ The proceeds from Ronan’s Foundation are all sitting in a bank. Woody and I are currently trying to figure out where exactly we want the money to go to because we DON’T want it to go to unnecessary things. We DON’T use any of the money for our fundraising, admin things, or merchandise. I pay out of pocket for these things. It’s important to me, that 100% of the money we raise, 100% go to our cause. We want most of it to go to research for this disease, but we have to find the people we believe in and who we think are going to be the one to make a breakthrough for Neuroblastoma. This is a long, grueling process as we are going to interview the doctors and research them, etc…… I also want to use the money to support local charities. I have donated to the MISS Foundation, which exists only on donations. I don’t pay Dr. Joanne a fee when I see her. She does not charge. She has a P.H.D and could be charging me at least 500 dollars a session, for the amount of time she spends with me. She does not charge a thing. I want to support her foundation as she is seriously saving my life. I also want to support The Ryan House, where Ro passed away and The Ronald McDonald House in NYC and here in Phoenix. Lastly, I want to help a local family once a year as I know how the bills add up. Hope this helps. Thanks for the support!!! xoxo

  6. Maya – Thank you for posting all of this info. I was going to ask you to get more technical about the research/funding issue as I felt I had to know more. Your plans for Ronan’s Foundation sound amazing and we all know you will never settle for less than perfection with each desicion that you make. Your hard work will not go unnoticed and WILL make a difference. We are all here to support you!!!



  7. Maya – I was driving to work this morning and an ad came on the radio for Susan G Koman. The ad explained how her sister made her it her life’s passion to help find a cure for Breast Cancer (like you explain in your blog) so that others could be saved as her sister died at such a young age (I believe she was in her 30’s). Also, I have recently become an active fund raiser for DKMS (an organization that helps find bone marrow donor matches for patients dying of blood cancers). My point of the above is that these two organization were started by one person hoping to make a difference after losing a loved one! ONE PERSON!! I truly do believe Maya that you are that one person who is going to make awareness for Childhood Cancer as big as the Susan G Koman and other organizations out there. The sad part is that it did take losing loved ones for people to start noticing cancer and making a difference. i just hope you realize how much you are doing. It might seem small and seeing the disappointing statistics might make people turn away from donating money for research but we all still need to keep up the fight!! I loved hearing that you are going to help families pay bills, etc with some of the money you’ve raised in Ronan’s honor!!

  8. Maya thank you for doing this for the kids. I’m so happy to hear that 100% of the donations go to charity. I feel like I can trust you to handle the disbursment, and I don’t trust many people! I would like to raise money for Ronan. I live in Cleveland Ohio, heard about your story from a friend of a friend in Scottsdale. I was thinking of buying a bunch of Rockstar purple bracelets and starting there. What do you think? I know I can do this for you! I feel like its my time to help. I am going to talk to a bunch of fundraising people I know and see if we can come up with an event in Cleveland. I would like to talk to you or one of your “lovelies”. Please let me know if you are interested. – Julie PS you are making a difference!

  9. Lea – To be fair, Komen gives to Planned Parenthood because they do both breast and cervical cancer screenings for the uninsured at their clinics and the National Breast and Cervical Cancer Early Detection Program is one of their major policy priorities.

    I have worked at one of these non-profits for three years (I currently work at the national headquarters) and I have brought this question up multiple times – why don’t we do more for pediatric cancers? I have at least started the ball rolling to where people are starting to think about it more and it’s my goal that we eventually do more. People are probably sick of me bringing it up, but that’s what I’m going to continue to do. As for NCI, I recently toured their research facility and got to see one of the labs where they do pediatric cancer research. I was very humbled by the work they are doing there and we need to make sure that funding isn’t cut to them through the Super Committee process.

    In the meantime, I give the majority of my money and support to CureSearch and always will. I still suggest that you contact them and go to their Lobby Day on Capitol Hill. Your story is something that your members of Congress need to hear. You can also go to their local offices and talk to them or their staff.

  10. These statistics are maddening! Kids deserve to have their own research and their own chemotherapy drugs, not just reduced doses of drugs developed for adult cancer. All the pink in the stores truly makes me ill. I want to see yellow in September more than pink in October. These kids need a voice, need to be seen, and heard. Too many people for too long have ignored that these children are out there, suffering, dying. Its bullshit. I will forever be changed because of you and Ronan and my dear friend Beth and her super hero Nate. I will spread awareness and fight for them every chance I get. Fuck cancer!

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