2017 was another record year for research. With the selection of a new secretary-general with unique experience of both the business sector and life on a paediatric oncology ward, the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund is now setting its sights even higher.
“I want to give back some of what my family received,” she says. “The Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund and the regional foundations make a big difference. When we spent a year living at the hospital, we were assisted by consulting nurses and our local foundation arranged dinners for us, when we didn’t even know how we’d manage.”
The past year brought a fundraising record for the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund, thanks to all the generous donors, whose contributions amounted to SEK 425 million. The goal is to achieve SEK 500 million in 2020.
“Developments in the paediatric oncology field have been unique,” says Jens Schollin, chairman of the board of the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund, “and I think the donors are aware that the money they give really does make a difference. When I got my start as a doctor 40 years ago, practically no children with cancer survived. Today we save 80 per cent.”
But 80 per cent is not enough – not when it means that 20 per cent of paediatric cancer patients still die. The Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund’s message is clear. The vision is to eradicate childhood cancer. The road to get there consists of research, which is extremely expensive and time-consuming, and providing continuous information about the consequences of childhood cancers and what life is like for the affected families.
“The Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund’s work is unique,” Schollin says. “We have contributed to more children surviving, to more parents and children getting better support, and to more citizens learning about what it’s like being a child with cancer, and the reality that cancer is the most common cause of death in children aged 1–14.
“Forty years ago, no one talked about childhood cancer. That’s not the case today. The Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund and the regional foundations have unique skills in influencing and lobbying decision-makers as well as the general public.
One example of concrete results from our efforts is the government’s review of the shortage of nurses.” During her first few months as secretary-general, Isabelle Ducellier has travelled to all six paediatric oncology centres in Sweden, where she has learned that even if they are not fully staffed yet, they are on their way. This is because the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund on several occasions has pointed out the short staff situation.
The Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund is the single largest financier of childhood cancer research in Sweden. Last year’s record award of SEK 235 million to research and training contributed among other things to a major national project in which the DNA of children with cancer was analysed in order to develop cutting-edge diagnostics and individualised treatments.
In our vision of eradicating childhood cancer, our goal is to raise SEK 500 million in 2020. To reach that goal, we need to reach out to more potential donors than before and create opportunities for larger donations, new corporate collaborations and an expansion of the number of Child Supporters. The Childhood Cancer Gala – The Swedish Humour Prize will continue to be one of our major activities each year; last year the gala set a new record in the number of new Child Supporters.
“We always want to be where our donors are, offering the most convenient solution at the very moment they feel the urge to give,” Ducellier says. “That means we need to have the right skills in place, and we have beefed up our organisation to fulfil that ambition, and to carry out our digital journey of change in general. The more efficiently we use our donors’ money, the more we can do. That’s something I learned in the business sector.”
In addition to the research initiatives, the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund works to support the families of children with cancer. This is where the six regional foundations come into play.
“We are closely linked, work together and support each other in everything we do,” Schollin says. “We are completely dependent on the regional foundations to provide support to the families in need.”
In the coming years, the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund will be launching more support for survivors of childhood cancer, a group that is continuously growing as more and more children survive.
“But we’re not going to reinvent the wheel,” Ducellier says. “Wherever possible, we will collaborate with existing organisations.”
“We want to emphasise that the adult world should be prepared for those who had cancer as children,” Schollin adds. “The public needs to learn about late complications and the needs of survivors of childhood cancers.”
The Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund has a wide range of operations, but the strong brand name makes a difference in every one of them. At the core is a simple strategy, which is the answer to three questions that every family of a child with cancer asks themselves.
“When you meet a family whose child has been diagnosed with cancer, the questions become clear: Will our child survive? How will we manage this situation? How will those around us understand what we are going through? These three questions are answered in our three missions,” Schollin tells us. “By funding research and training, the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund contributes to the survival of more and more children; by providing advice and support, we give the families the guidance and support they need; and through our information mission, we raise awareness among the general public about childhood cancer and its consequences.”
Both Schollin and Ducellier keep coming back to a single word: Pride. Pride in working with the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund, in being able to help them to make a difference. And also gratitude.
“The Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund and the regional foundations are dependent on the families and children who have been through this. The knowledge they convey about their situation is unique,” Schollin says. “That’s what helps the general public to understand the hardship of dealing with childhood cancer, and that we are doing everything in our power to make sure that all children can be cured.”
In closing, the secretary-general and the chairman of the board of the Swedish Childhood Cancer Fund want to express their gratitude to all those who contribute to the fight against childhood cancer:
“The commitment and support we get from all of our donors and others who contribute to the fight against childhood cancer is nothing short of fantastic. Words are not enough, and we simply want to extend our humble thanks, and we hope that you will stay with us in the future.”