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McKenna Claire Foundation Raises Hopes, Dollars to Fight Pediatric Brain Cancer

The McKenna Claire Foundation presents a generous donation to Dr. Monje of the Stanford Medical Institute so Dr. Monje and her researchers can continue their studies of McKenna's tumor and progress towards finding a cure for pediatric brain cancer.

The McKenna Claire Foundation presents a generous donation to Dr. Monje of the Stanford Medical Institute so Dr. Monje and her researchers can continue their studies of McKenna’s tumor and progress towards finding a cure for pediatric brain cancer.

HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA –- The McKenna Claire Foundation, a non-profit organization striving to spread awareness, increase community involvement and fund research of pediatric brain cancer, celebrated its second anniversary by surpassing $1,000,0000 in funds raised.  The Foundation has already donated more than $500,000 to ongoing research and education initiatives, and has pledged an additional $350,000 to efforts related to the understanding and treatment of pediatric brain cancer.

The foundation’s namesake, McKenna Claire Wetzel, suffered from DIPG (Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma), an inoperable form of brain cancer affecting children that has a near 100% mortality rate. When McKenna’s battle with DIPG ended just days before her 8th birthday, her parents, Dave and Kristine, decided to create a community oriented foundation with the hope of one day preventing other families from experiencing the tragic loss they continue to endure today.

“When we lost McKenna, we chose to channel our grief in a way that might one day eliminate this horrible form of pediatric cancer,” said Dave Wetzel.  “Two years later, the outpouring of community and corporate support has truly humbled us and contributed to a dramatic increase in DIPG research.”

The McKenna Claire Foundation funds cutting-edge research efforts at the Monje Lab at Stanford University, a leading research facility for DIPG and home to the cell line developed when the Wetzels donated McKenna’s brain tissue after her passing.  Because it is difficult to biopsy this tumor due to its location in the brain stem, this cell line has provided scientists on three continents and 18 different research institutions much needed material for research. Through Dr. Michelle Monje’s work with an international collaborative of scientists and partnership with the Foundation, a swell of DIPG research activity has recently developed.

“With the McKenna Claire Foundation’s funding and support, we continue to grow McKenna’s (and other) donated tumor cell lines, sharing these invaluable resources with dozens of scientists internationally, which is stimulating a swell of DIPG research activity,” said Dr. Monje.  “The McKenna Claire Foundation has been an invaluable partner in making this happen!”

As well, the foundation has developed a partnership with St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a leader in funding pediatric cancer research, which they hope will serve as a prototype for small foundations to crowd-source scientifically reviewed research grants.

A byproduct of the incredible community support in Orange County for the foundation was an introduction to the Chevron Corporation. Through donations made at corporately owned and operated retailers in California, Washington, Oregon and Hawaii, Chevron patrons have raised more than $700,000 for the foundation, as part of the company’s commitment to building healthier communities. 

“Chevron is proud to support the McKenna Claire Foundation in its mission to fund pediatric brain cancer research through donations and outreach in the communities we serve.  We continue to be inspired by the Foundation’s commitment of helping to find a cure to pediatric cancer and bring hope for all those children affected by the disease,” said Chevron’s Hector Infante.

The McKenna Claire Foundation is proud of its community-based roots.   Friends of the family, along with parents of McKenna’s classmates, originally volunteered to create a block party affectionately called “Party With A Purpose” in order to help defray medical costs.  Following McKenna’s loss, these same friends gathered again to create a foundation born out of tragedy and shaped around a dining room table.  They have continued the tradition of “Party With a Purpose” as an annual community event and fundraiser, then added “Stand Up and Shine” lemonade stands, followed by the “Play It Forward” golf tournament.  Now with larger corporate support, the little community foundation is making an impact that has exceeded the Wetzel’s initial expectations.

“My dream is to one day have no reason to raise another dime, but until a cure is found we will work tirelessly in McKenna’s memory to beat this horrific disease,” said Kristine Wetzel.

Visit www.mckennaclairefoundation.org/events for more information.

About the McKenna Claire Foundation     

The McKenna Claire Foundation is a 501c3 non-profit organization based in Huntington Beach, CA dedicated to fighting pediatric brain cancer.  The Foundation’s namesake, McKenna Claire Wetzel courageously battled Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), an inoperable, and currently non-survivable form of brain cancer.  Visit www.mckennaclairefoundation.org for more information.