Continuing Anna’s Fight
In 2011, Carol Redford Basso ’84 and her husband, David Basso ’86, lost their daughter, Anna, to Ewing sarcoma. Out of their grief emerged a new mission: to help others with Ewing’s and find a cure through the 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation.
“Losing a child to cancer changes your focus on everything. You want to do something to help other families and to find treatments for this horrible disease. You’re committed to it.”
That commitment drives Carol Redford Basso ’84 in her ongoing fight to eradicate Ewing sarcoma, a rare and aggressive bone and soft tissue cancer. She and her husband, David Basso ’86, lost their youngest daughter, Anna, to this disease in 2011.
Following Anna’s diagnosis in 2009, her family learned that the treatment for Ewing sarcoma is extremely difficult and harsh, and there is no protocol treatment for metastatic Ewing’s.
“The treatment is almost as bad as the cancer itself,” Basso says. “Anna endured 14 rounds of chemotherapy and 31 days of radiation. The treatments often cause secondary conditions, including leukemia and heart or kidney problems.”
Anna Basso died on June 8, 2011, 10 days after her high school graduation.
“When Anna passed away, we were determined to find answers on how to treat this disease,” Basso says. “We had learned that only 3.8 percent of the federal budget for cancer research went to pediatric cancer and that 80 percent of those diagnosed with Ewing’s are between the ages of 10 and 20. That’s a lot of losses of years of life from this cancer. We had to do something to help.”
In 2012, the 1 Million 4 Anna Foundation (1M4A) was established. The foundation’s website, 1million4anna.org, details their mission to fight Ewing’s through a three-pronged approach: support current patients and their families; provide scholarships for students who have battled or continue to battle the disease; and fund Ewing’s research.
One way the foundation supports current patients is by creating and stocking Anna’s Closets at children’s hospitals.
When Anna passed away, we were determined to find answers on how to treat this disease.
“When Anna was in treatment at Children’s Medical Center in Dallas, they had a prize closet [to provide small gifts to patients after procedures], and Anna was asked if she’d like something,” Basso says. “But there was nothing in it for teenagers. It’s a population that can be overlooked and has different needs than pediatric patients.”
This discovery prompted the first Anna’s Closet, and now the foundation supports 20 closets in 10 states. Volunteers collect and stock the closets with $5-$20 items, including small models, college/pro sports team gear, sunglasses, etc. While gifts may be purchased with foundation funds, volunteers and supporters often hold collection drives.
“We’ve even had kids who ask for gifts to Anna’s Closet instead of birthday gifts,” Basso says.
With the help of sponsors and other foundations, 1M4A also offers annual $2,500 college scholarships to Ewing’s survivors and/or those continuing to battle the disease. Since 2012, more than 130 scholarships have been awarded.
“We’ve developed some very nice friendships through this program,” Basso says. It’s great to get to know the recipients, celebrate what they have endured and overcome, and [learn] what they plan to accomplish.”
The third and perhaps most vital part of the foundation’s mission is supporting and funding medical research. Since 2013, 1M4A has awarded more than $500,000 in research grants.
“Research is a very important part of what we do,” Basso says. “We helped form a Ewing sarcoma research team at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Their chief of pediatric oncology and hematology is on our board and helped get the team started by recruiting five experts from five different labs to find a more effective treatment. That team happened because of a grant from Anna’s foundation.”
The researchers plan to apply for a federal grant through the National Institutes of Health. Such a grant could lead to millions of dollars in funding, and hopefully a breakthrough. And when that breakthrough comes, the many volunteers who work tirelessly on the 1M4A team will have played a part.
“I work full-time plus for the foundation,” Basso says. “And we’ve been so lucky with friends who have volunteered. We’re very humbled and appreciative of all the people who have rallied around us. I don’t know where we’d be without them.”
In fact, thanks to the devotion of their volunteers, the foundation had never had a paid employee since its founding in 2012. But that changed last June.
“For a year or more, I had really felt the need to hire a development director so we can continue to grow,” Basso says. “Our new director of development served on our board for three years, has event planning and fundraising experience and also happens to be a Ewing sarcoma survivor!”
With this addition to the staff, is Basso considering stepping down?
“I don’t know when that will happen. My heart and a lot of what I do in life is put into the foundation’s mission. It’s hard to imagine not doing what I’m doing.”