Performing with only a guitar on the patio in her backyard, Abby Schulman, a rising senior at Edgemont High School, had no problem raising roughly $2,000 from an audience of only 40 people. The concert staged on the evening of June 27 at her Edgemont home was part of a “Songs for a Cause” series Schulman created. Proceeds went to the I Care I Cure Foundation, which is dedicated to researching more humane treatments and cures for childhood cancer.
“It actually wasn’t that difficult to put the event together … I would love to do another one considering how easy it was,” said Schulman, who was accompanied at the event by her father and her instrumental teacher who both played guitars alongside her. “We thought it would be fun for them to get involved and play backup … as a sort of band. We sent out a bunch of invitations and those were the logistics.”
The trio picked 10 of Schulman’s favorite songs, including hits by Taylor Swift and Ed Sheeran, and rehearsed once a week in the time leading up to the show. With a set of lawn chairs and invited friends, community members, family and neighbors, they built a fundraiser.
“I've been playing and singing for as long as I can remember because I grew up in such a musical family, and my parents were always involved,” said Schulman. “I wanted to find a way to give back to the community and find a great cause to donate some money toward. And I thought this would be a great way to do that.”
Though the I Care I Cure headquarters is located in South Florida, co-founder Beth Besner said the organization hopes to extend its reach far beyond its current location and potentially help parents across the country open their own chapters.
“If 40 or 30 people came to Abby’s event, then 30 or 40 more people know about the need for better cures for childhood cancer,” said Besner. “Whatever they donate to us or they donate to other foundations, it’s all a cure.”
Besner and her husband, Brad, started I Care I Cure in 2007, shortly after their son died due to complications from his treatment for childhood leukemia. Though Ian was in remission in May 2006, four months after his initial diagnosis, he died from meningitis complications amplified by the medications used in his treatment.
“We looked at it and said, ‘If the treatment cured, if the drugs were not as toxic as they were, maybe kids would have a fighting chance to survive and thrive’,” said Besner. ”We also decided to model [for] our other two boys, ‘make lemonade from lemons’ and to start the foundation to raise money for gentler, less toxic cures for childhood cancers.”
Besner said the crux of the organization is raising money and awareness to fund research for therapy that targets the cancer and not the kid. Pediatric cancer treatment research is underfunded by pharmaceuticals both for liability and profit reasons, said Besner, and government monies can be hard to come by. Though there is considerable public funding put toward cancer research and treatment in general, the genetics of childhood cancer are fundamentally different from that of adult cancer, meaning many people don’t know of the need for separate funding for the pediatric cause.
The connection with Schulman started at a college reunion. Besner and Abby’s father Scott Schulman met up at a reunion in April and Besner shared her story with Scott who, in turn, shared it with Abby.
“[My dad] mentioned the organization and I realized it’d be a great organization to donate the funds from the event,” Abby Schulman said. “I did some research, I looked into it myself, read the story about their son, and I found it very touching.”
Fifteen hundred dollars in night-of donations and another $500 online later, Schulman had not only raised funds for the organization, but planted the seed for expansion Besner had been looking for all along.
“We can help parents who have lost children or whose kids have finished treatments or are in treatments start foundations without having to do their own 501(c)(3),” said Besner. “That would be one of our goals, to help families achieve this without having to go through the hoops. As people learn about the organization that way, they may even want to contact us if they are in that situation.” The website isicareicure.org.
As for Schulman, she’ll continue to participate in the music she’s been playing since she was a child in ensembles both at school, at home and at her temple. As a rising senior, she hopes to use her last year at Edgemont to organize another similar community event.
“Considering how successful this was, I’d love to do another one,” said Schulman. “It was a decent turnout, especially for summer when everyone is away. I think if I did another in the fall, it would easily have even more people and raise even more money. It was a lot of fun. I’ll definitely do it again.”