Hello. I’m Max’s dad, Andy Mikulak. Our family’s childhood cancer story begins in October 2004, shortly after the founder of Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, Alexandra “Alex” Scott, lost her life to childhood cancer. Max, our youngest child at the time, was a typical 3-year-old boy: He had the expected love/hate/love relationship with his bigger sister Hannah; an all-encompassing fondness for things with wheels; and the usual, ever-changing assortment of bumps, bruises and dirt adorning his body on a daily basis. But, in September 2004, he started having many health problems, and finally a few days before Halloween, he was diagnosed with stage IV, high-risk neuroblastoma – just like Alex.
Fast-forward through hundreds of doses of chemo, dozens of radiation cycles, surgeries, and biopsies, not to mention almost four years of “living life to the Max” whenever possible, Max passed away on August 31, 2008. Throughout Max’s treatment and continuing after his death, our family was committed to doing what we could to help battle childhood cancer – to try to save Max’s life, but also to help others like him. We started Max’s Ring of Fire and the previous foundation I co-founded, MagicWater, to do two simple things: raise money, and direct that money toward innovative translational research that was going unfunded or underfunded. Combined, those efforts have raised over $1 million, and helped support the launch of over 10 clinical trials treating 150-plus patients.
In late 2010, I became involved in an organization called People Against Childhood Cancer (PAC2). PAC2 serves the childhood cancer community by sharing news and information, and by helping the community better work together, for the benefit of kids fighting cancer. Through my work with PAC2, an idea began to form about putting together collaborations between Max’s Ring of Fire and other childhood cancer foundations – in order to demonstrate that collaboration is possible, even amongst childhood cancer foundations that traditionally have “competed” for the same sponsors, donors and media attention.
MROF had held our first 5K run/1-mile walk in September 2010, which we called the Max Run. I wondered if in 2011 we might use the second Max Run to test a collaborative effort between MROF and another childhood cancer foundation. As luck would have it, in March of this year I heard that Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation was looking to hold one of its signature Lemon Runs in San Diego. I wrote an email to Jay and suggested the idea of working together on a San Diego run in Fall 2011. Not surprisingly, Jay was game. He and Liz have always been open and accepting of doing whatever’s necessary to make the biggest impact in childhood cancer – a principle shared by Max’s Ring of Fire as well.
With that, Max Run II officially became Max’s Ring of Fire Lemon Run. This is truly a collaborative, all-hands, teamwork-driven effort.
Here are 3 reasons why MROF Lemon Run will be like no other run that has been held in San Diego before:
1 – A Meaningful Race Design: 4.6 miles. Why 4.6? Because every weekday, 46 kids are diagnosed with cancer. There is also a 1-mile fun run/walk. Both are family/stroller-friendly.
2 – A Most Important Cause: Cancer kills more children than AIDS, asthma, diabetes, cystic fibrosis and congenital anomalies combined. The federal government continues to cut funding for childhood cancer, and drug companies focus almost exclusively on research and development for adult cancers. The money raised at events like MROF Lemon Run is one of the primary means for new and possibly breakthrough research to get funded. This is research that may mean that someday no parent has to hear the words, “your child has cancer.”
3 – A Really Fun Time: When was the last time you saw Star Wars Storm troopers at a road race? We believe that hard work for a
The amazing progress made by other diseases has been the result of working together. My hope is that this partnership with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation represents the beginning of a new era of cooperation and partnership in the childhood cancer community, born of the push to see a 100% long-term cure rate for children diagnosed with cancer within the next 20 years.
- Andy Mikulak