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Boots on the ground to help cancer patients






A nonprofit organization that helps families affected by Leukemia, Lymphoma, and related blood cancers is opening a regional office in Grand Rapids soon, and in March, they’re hosting a swanky fundraiser at Reserve to benefit families in West Michigan.

The Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan (CLF) has recently signed a lease for space in the McKay Tower and President and CEO William Seklar says he's "thrilled and delighted" to move into this historic building.

Founded in Detroit in 1952, CLF was started by a group of families who had each lost a child to Leukemia. Seklar says they came together at the kitchen table and decided they didn't want anyone else to "walk alone in this journey."

Now there are nearly 60 chapters around Michigan and the organization serves more than 4,400 families each year. The largest concentration of families -- around 25 percent -- is located in West Michigan, so it made sense to open an office here. CLF has been serving all of Michigan from its Southeast location, but Seklar says it's becoming less feasible to continue doing that.

"We need to have boots on the ground," he says.

This referral-based organization offers information, financial assistance, and emotional support to families when someone is diagnosed with Leukemia or another blood cancer. One of their main goals is to empower people with knowledge so they can make better decisions about their care.

"A cancer diagnosis affects the whole family," Seklar says. "More than half the clients CLF serves are at or below the poverty level, requiring them to make tough decisions about how to allocate already-stretched financial resources. At CLF, all our programs and services are free and no patient is ever turned away."

The good news is that the survival rate for someone diagnosed with Leukemia and related blood cancers is now 90 percent. When CLF first opened, the survival rate was only 10 percent.

It also used to be that adults were rarely diagnosed with the disease and it affected mostly children, hence the organization's name. Now, that has reversed and more adults are being diagnosed with Leukemia.  

In addition to opening an office in Grand Rapids, CLF is also hosting its first fundraiser here on March 9. CRUSH Grand Rapids Wine & Food Classic takes place at Reserve and it's one of several elegant CRUSH events held around the state.

This fundraiser, made possible by Dick and Betsy DeVos, will feature some of the leading chefs and sommeliers from Chicago and throughout Michigan. There will also be an awards ceremony honoring Dr. James B. Fahner, the director of pediatric hematology and oncology at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, with its 2013 Pioneers in Medicine Award, and Varnum LLP with its Corporate Leadership Award.

All of the money raised from the event will stay in West Michigan to help patients and their families.

Soon, CLF will have a stronger presence here and be able to better serve local families affected by Leukemia and other blood cancers. If you would like to support them, here's how you can get involved:

- Visit the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan online to find out more.
- Attend the CRUSH Grand Rapids Wine & Food Classic event on March 9. 
- Donate to CLF. 
- Volunteer with CLF. 
- Like them on Facebook
- Follow @CLFMichigan on Twitter. 

Source: William Seklar, President and CEO of the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan.
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