Racing for Children’s puts cancer research in the fast lane on April 20

Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama, Racing with Children's, Barber Motorsports, charity, racing
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Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama, Racing with Children's, Barber Motorsports, charity, racing
Crew Chiefs Ben Johnson and Mollie Wilder with the Racing for Children’s crew. Photo submitted.

When it comes to charitable giving, motorsports enthusiasts really know how to drive the point home.

Help Them Find Hope

Every year the nonprofit organization Racing for Children’s connects motorsports enthusiasts and cancer research supporters with Children’s of Alabama. Racing for Children’s not only raises money for research, but each year they honor two Children’s of Alabama patients by tapping them to serve as honorary crew chiefs for the Racing for Children’s race car.

Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama, Racing with Children's, Barber Motorsports, charity, racingThis year Mollie Wilder and Ben Johnson are leading the team in the race to cure cancer.

Both of these kids steer the way over some bumpy, life-changing roads, but there’s lots of hope and security for them around every corner, thanks to the awareness and contributions Racing for Children raises.

Now in its 8th year, the RFC event has raised over $1 million in the fight against pediatric cancer.

Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama, Racing with Children's, Barber Motorsports, charity, racing
Mollie Wilder, photo submitted.
Children’s Champions: Meet Mollie And Ben

Mollie Wilder started having headaches when she was ten, and after a few ER visits Mollie’s parents sought another opinion from her pediatrician. Her doctor requested an MRI, and it revealed a significant tumor sitting on Mollie’s brain stem. She was immediately transported to Children’s of Alabama’s downtown campus.

Surgery was the only option, but it was risky. Doctors told Renee and Scott Wilder that because the tumor was entwined in Mollie’s brain stem, she might not make it. Or, if she did, she could suffer serious impairments.

“But we knew there was no way she could live with the tumor,” Renee said. “It was our only choice.”

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After a 10-and-a-half hour surgery, Mollie’s neurosurgeon successfully removed about 96 percent of the malignant tumor. Originally, Mollie’s tumor was diagnosed as anaplastic ependymoma, a high-grade tumor that tends to be faster-growing. An aggressive treatment plan commenced, and after one round of chemotherapy, Mollie’s doctor, Dr. Greg Friedman, shared some unexpected but wonderful news.

“The lab that did the testing on her tumor had misdiagnosed it,” Renee said. “It was actually medulloblastoma, which was obviously still cancer but easier to treat.”

Mollie continued treatment— including 30 radiation treatments and six cycles of chemo—and after about eight months, an MRI revealed she was officially cancer free. Now in ninth grade, she’s back at school, taking piano lessons and playing on her school’s tennis team.

Birmingham, Alabama, Children's of Alabama, Racing with Children's, Barber Motorsports, charity, racing
Ben Johnson, photo submitted.
Ben’s Journey

The symptoms weren’t worrisome at first, said Christi Johnson of her then 7-year-old son, Ben, who one day he began experiencing unexplained low-grade fevers.

Christi took Ben to his pediatrician in Auburn and labs were drawn to find answers. Initial blood work didn’t pinpoint the problem, but it did reveal enough for Christi and husband, Brandon, to take Ben to Children’s of Alabama.

The following day, a bone marrow biopsy revealed Ben’s diagnosis–acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Chemotherapy began right away, and in the first 30 days, Ben responded well. In fact, his cancer went into remission.

“We were told to expect remission in the first month because they are so aggressively treated with chemo,” Christi said. “But what threw us through a loop was when his doctors told us that treatment would take three-and-a-half years.”

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Ben faced intensive treatment for eight months and later switched to a lower dose of chemo. The family traveled to Birmingham at least once a week, then his visits tapered to once a month or so. Ben recently finished treatment and remains in remission.

Today, Ben is back to focusing on his favorite activities–football, baseball, swimming and playing with his friends.

Birmingham, Alabama, Racing for Children's
This year’s Racing for Chldren’s Porsche 911 GT3. Photo submitted.
Go, Go, Go!

The eighth annual Racing for Children’s Charity Dinner and Auction presented by Medical Properties Trust will be held April 20 at 6:30 p.m. at Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum.

The driver for 2018 is Roman DeAngelis, a rising teen star in the motorsports racing world.

Birmingham, Alabama, Roman De Angelis
Roman De Angelis, submitted photo.

To purchase sponsorships or tickets, visit www.RacingForChildrens.org. Learn more about Racing for Children’s on their Facebook page.

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