ELC Family Rallies Around Student Battling Cancer

A cancer diagnosis is the last thing anyone wants. But when that diagnosis is given to a 1-year-old child, it is especially terrifying.

Glen Bayne, now 2, recently got a diagnosis of Rhabdomyosarcoma and is now undergoing treatment for the disease. Glen is a student at the JCC Early Learning Center, where teachers and other parents were moved to action.

David Elster, a parent whose children attend the ELC, joined with Glen’s former teacher Naomi Warnick to create Glen’s Army.

Elster has been volunteering his time for pediatric oncology fundraising for several years. “I do it for selfish reasons,” he said. His wife, Dr. Jennifer Elster, is a pediatric oncologist, and “I want them to come up with some kind of breakthrough so my wife can be home more,” he said, only partially joking. “Also, if – God forbid – one of my kids was diagnosed, I’d want that breakthrough for them, too.”

Elster said that while he’s been helping with fundraising efforts for years, he was never able to put a name and face to his efforts until he knew Glen.

Glen’s Army organized a team to walk in this year’s CureSearch Walk on September 13. Elster and Warnick were hoping to raise $5,000 and have a team of about 35 people. Instead, 86 people participated in the walk, and they’ve raised nearly $13,000 … in just three weeks.

Though there were more than 10 teams on the walk, Glen’s Army raised more than one-third of the walk’s goal and was the top team. Glen was unable to attend because he was receiving treatment at the time, but some of his family members were there.

The group also hosted an event at the Comfy Cow ice cream shop in St. Matthews on September 8 to celebrate Glen’s second birthday. The shop agreed to donate 20 percent of sales to their cause, and they brought in $162. “We ate over $800 worth of ice cream,” Warnick said.

In awe of the amount of participation and money raised, Warnick said, “Magic happened.”

Another way the group has raised funds is by selling T-shirts. They say, “Glen’s Army” on the front and “Glen is stronger than me” on the back. The group is planning to order another set of shirts soon.

CureSearch is the fundraising arm of the Children’s Oncology Group, an international consortium that sets standards of treatment for pediatric malignancies, which helps ensure that all children who get cancer treatment receive the same standard of care no matter where they are.

Glen’s Army only started three weeks ago, but has no plans to stop. “Next we’re going to conquer St. Baldrick’s,” Elster said.

There are 42 children diagnosed with cancer every day, Elster said. And there are only two drugs approved to treat children’s cancer, Warnick added. “We want them to get more options.”

Warnick is hoping to go to medical school next year and wants to specialize in pediatrics.

“Glen is my superhero,” she said.

Elster said that 30 years ago, if a child was diagnosed with Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia, he or she had about a 50/50 chance of survival. Now that is 97 percent, Elster said to illustrate the progress pediatric cancer has made.

“We parents live such busy lives, and for the most part, we just smile and wave vaguely at one another in passing,” Elster said. “It’s just so awe-inspiring to see what these pseudo-strangers have done as a community to make a stand against childhood cancer in support of Glen.”

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