GUYTON — The desire to defeat childhood cancer is growing. The monetary commitment to make it happen is, too.
Catie’s Fund, started locally in 2007, has raised $1 million.
“Every bit of it goes to research because it is a named fund (of CURE Childhood Cancer),” said Jenny Wilkins, who co-founded Catie’s Fund with her husband, Tre. “There are no administrative costs or salaries that come out of it.”
Catie’s Fund was formed in honor of the Wilkinses’ daughter. She was diagnosed with medulloblastoma, an aggressive brain tumor, on her first birthday. She endured 12 surgeries, four chemotherapy protocols and six weeks of radiation before succumbing in 2007 after four years and four months of life.
“(Fundraising) was slow the first few years,” Jenny Wilkins said. “We didn’t find our sweet spot for a while. It took 11 years to hit our first million but I think we will hit our second million within three or four more years because we have increased our profit and the growth has been pretty consistent.”
Initially, the Wilkinses tried golf tournaments and other methods to generate donations to Catie’s Fund. Now the primary fundraising event is “Sisters On a Journey,” an annual banquet that features table table decorating and auctions.
The last one held at Honey Ridge Plantation early this month raised more than $136,000. It featured nearly 1,000 participants.
“It’s an event that people enjoy and that is different,” Jenny Wilkins said. “I also think we have amazing community support. I think our community has really bought into the cause.
“We’ve had a lot of kids with cancer in Effingham County so I think awareness has been raised.”
“Sisters On a Journey” banquets are bolstered by table sponsorships, raffles and donations for the auctions. A banquet in Savannah produced $106,000 for Catie’s Fund. Additional ones are planned in Statesboro and Bryan County.
“I could throw dinners all I want and not make any money,” Jenny Wilkins said. “People come out of the woodwork to give us items and sponsorships. None of this would be possible without their support. I don’t think there are words to describe how it feels to have a community come around a cause like that.
“God has really blessed us that he took the worst of our lives and turned it into my favorite night of the year. The community enabled that and it is pretty amazing.”
The Wilkinses decided to start Catie’s Fund after learning about the dearth of funding for childhood cancer research.
“Cancer is the leading killer of children,” Jenny Wilkins said. “It kills so many more than accidents and other diseases combined but no one is throwing money at it. The money is not there.
“... It’s not’s good enough and we don’t want other families to go through it.”
To donate to Catie’s Fund, visit https://curechildhoodcancer.org/funds/caties-fund/.