Joey Widman’s birthday party last August was all a boy could ask for: the seven-year-old’s friends swam in his family’s backyard pool, played games, and, that evening, munched popcorn as they watched a movie on an outdoor screen. His gifts, slipped into a box decorated with purple wrapping paper, were exactly what he did ask for: money to support the research of Dana-Farber’s Mark Kieran, MD, into a new treatment for pediatric low grade astrocytoma (PLGA), a brain tumor that Joey had been diagnosed with three years earlier.
During the summer, Joey told his dad, “You know what, dad? I don’t want this tumor, I want it go away. What can I do?” They talked about asking the friends invited to his birthday to make donations for Dr. Kieran’s research, rather than bringing birthday presents. Joey liked the idea.
And on October 29, Joey and his parents traveled from their home in Wallingford, Connecticut, to Dana-Farber to present Dr. Kieran with a check for $364.05, the value of the donations made at his birthday.
Joey was diagnosed in 2006, when he underwent a 10-hour operation at Boston Children’s Hospital to remove the tumor. While recovering, he and his family met Dr. Kieran, who informed them of his new research initiatives. Eighteen months after the first operation, Joey underwent a second one to remove a regrown tumor.
While Joey’s tumor which he named “Anthony”, after an imaginary mischief-maker he’d invented at age four is now stable, the family is hopeful that Dr. Kieran’s new therapy will be ready should “Anthony” begin to grow again. Meanwhile, the idea of replacing birthday presents with donations to good causes is catching on among Joey’s friends.