Ethan Cohen was only 7 years old when his 3-1/ 2-year-old brother Andrew was diagnosed with neuroblastoma, a rare form of pediatric cancer that afflicts approximately 650 children every year in the U.S. When Andrew complained he was having trouble walking, his parents, took him to the doctor and their normal lives were shattered by the news their youngest child was battling stage 4 cancer.
Determined to do whatever they could to save Andrew’s life, the Cohen family discovered Band of Parents, a 501C3 organization which was founded in 2007 by a group of parents whose children were battling neuroblastoma and were running out of time with no cure in sight. After speaking with one of the leading cancer specialists at Memorial Sloan Kettering, the families discovered there were treatments that could be given to their children to potentially put cancer into remission – but there was no funding available to support production of that groundbreaking treatment. From that moment on, Band of Parents was born. Those initial families raised $1 million the first year, and eventually enough to start funding that very first treatment. In 2012, Andrew Cohen received a vaccine that the 501C3 organization helped pay for. Now at age 10, Andrew is a two time cancer survivor and is currently cancer free.
Inspired by his brother’s determination and the support his family received while Andrew went through treatment, Ethan Cohen decided to devote his mitzvah project to support Band of Parents and the organization’s mission to find a cure for neuroblastoma. Ethan teamed up with his friend Josh Lebowitz, who was also celebrating his bar mitzvah, and together the pair combined their love of hockey with an organization that truly is making a difference in the lives of children who are battling this rare form of cancer.
Ethan and Josh founded Put Cancer in the Penalty Box, a skating charity event. In their first year, Ethan and Josh helped raise several thousand dollars on behalf of Band of Parents. Since their mitzvah project was incredibly successful, the pair decided to make it an annual event.
Put Cancer in the Penalty Box recently celebrated its second fundraiser at the Ice Hutch in Mount Vernon, which graciously donated the rink for the festivities.
With the support of several volunteers, including Josh’s mom Gretchen and Ethan’s mom Jill, Put Cancer in the Penalty Box featured a popular bar mitzvah DJ, a host of amazing auction items, the opportunity for kids to skate on the ice, fun hockey drills and a puck toss where attendees purchased pucks for charity that they threw on the ice with the chance to win prizes. With the support of their families and friends, Put Cancer in the Penalty Box has now raised over $17,000 to help support Band of Parents’ courageous families. “It feels good knowing that people care and I don’t want other people to go through what my brother went through,” Ethan says.
All proceeds from the fundraiser are donated directly to Memorial Sloan Kettering to support childhood cancer research. Pediatric cancer research is woefully underfunded, and grassroots fundraisers like Ethan and Josh help researchers do more to find cures.
In the past decade, Band of Parents has expanded its advocacy, pledging more than $6 million to fund neuroblastoma research in several major cancer centers throughout the United States. Band of Parents’ funding has helped increase survival rates to over 50 percent for children undergoing treatment for neuroblastoma. The organization has now become the top independent backer of neuroblastoma research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC).
After skating with his brothers on the ice and participating in all the fun activities that day, Andrew talked about how he feels about being an inspiration to other kids who are facing a similar diagnosis. “It makes me feel proud because it’s hard for a lot of kids and I feel proud that I was able to overcome it,” he says.
Ethan’s mom, Jill Ostrager-Cohen who is now the president of Band of Parents, is also incredibly proud of her sons. “Bad things happen to all of us in our life,” she says. “What really defines who we are and what we teach our children is how we choose to react to that. So in our case, I felt very strongly that we have to make something good come of this.”
To find out more about and donate to Band of Parents, visit bando
Beth Feldman is a frequent contributor to Westchester Family.