BY KEVIN BEESE | Contributor
October 16, 2012 5:48PM
Updated: October 16, 2012 6:18PM
HIGHWOOD — Having a son with leukemia, Michael and Phyllis Sommer know the importance of research and support for pediatric cancer.
“It is one of the most underfunded areas in cancer research,” Phyllis Sommer said. “It gets a fraction of the funding that other forms of cancer research receive on a national level. It is so important to build support for research to save and to help kids.”
With a son being treated in Children’s Hospital in Milwaukee and Saturday being a hectic day for rabbis, which both Michael and Phyllis Sommer are, it is unclear how many family members will be able to make it to Saturday’s Great Highwood 5K/10K Pumpkin Run Kids’ Dash, which is a fund-raiser for the Leukemia Research Foundation. But the Sommer family definitely plans to be a part of the event in some way.
In its third year, the Great Pumpkin Fest, which adds a 10-kilometer race this year, is hoping to top 1,000 participants. The events will kick off at 9 a.m. Saturday in front of The Bent Fork Bakery, 333 Waukegan Ave., Highwood.
Kevin Radelet, executive director of the Leukemia Research Foundation, which is based in Wilmette, said the races, which could raise $25,000, could be a big funding boost to his group.
“For a small, local organization, founded in 1946, $25,000 is a lot of funding for us,” Radelet said. “It has a major impact on what we can do year in and year out.”
He said many families like the Sommerses all across the country have their lives impacted by leukemia every day.
“Their worlds are rocked quite a bit,” Radelet said. “The family of a young child is rocked and you don’t think about leukemia until the diagnosis hits you.
“You gather as much information as you can,” Radelet continued. “The Internet is great, but there is a lot of garbage out there. We provide treatment option and better information on what they are struggling with and what lies ahead.”
Last year was the first year that LRF was the beneficiary of the Pumpkin Fest races. The money raised, Radelet said, can help fund research grants of $100,000 that are given out annually. It can also go to help fund patient assistance programs.
Radelet urges area residents who are unable to participate in Saturday’s races to go to the organization’s website,o learn more about the agency and how they provide financial support.
Race participants can register online at www.HighwoodPumpkinfest.com
Fees are $30 for the 5-kilometer race, $40 for the 10K and free for youth in costume participating in the Kids’ Dash, which is 350 meters.