For the Love of Benny: Students at Miller Elementary School Raise Funds for the ‘Louise Thomas Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cancer Research’ at the UA Steele Children’s Research Center

The donated funds are being contributed to the “Louise Thomas Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cancer Research.” The endowment will provide continuous funding for pediatric cancer research projects at the UA Steele Center.

Students at Miller Elementary School held a “Hat Parade” and raised $221 for the “Louise Thomas Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cancer Research” at the UA Steele Children’s Research Center.

The “Hat Parade” was coordinated by the school’s community representative, Amy Petz.

Benny PetzAmy’s son Benny passed away on June 27, 2006, at the young age of 5 from neuroblastoma—a pediatric solid tumor cancer of the nerve tissue.

Students each donated $1 to wear a hat at school on Tuesday, May 13, and then they held a hat parade.

“The kids were happy to support the cause of children’s cancer research,” said Amy. “We’re planning on doing this fundraiser again next year as well.”

The Petz family presented the check from the school’s fundraiser on Tuesday, May 27, to the UA Steele Center.

“This was really meaningful for me, as Benny would have celebrated his 13th birthday on May 26,” said Amy.

When Benny was alive and being treated at what was then UMC (now Diamond Children’s), he participated in a phase 1 clinical trial, testing the novel cancer drug 17AAG (17-allylamino-geldananmycin). The clinical trial was managed by former UA Steele Center physician-scientist Rochelle Bagatell, MD.

“Benny contributed to advancing knowledge about finding less toxic ways to treat children with cancer,” said Amy. “We know that research is the key to finding better treatments and cures for childhood cancers.”

Benny was well-known and loved by the Tucson community during his battle with cancer. A story written by the Arizona Daily Star on the one-year anniversary of his death in 2007 can be read here:

The Louise Thomas Endowed Chair in Pediatric Cancer Research” at the UA Steele Children’s Research Center was named after Louise Thomas, a passionate advocate of children's health and a driving force behind the Steele Center since its inception. After the painful experience of losing their son to cancer, Louise and her husband, Al, became advocates for the importance of medical research to find new treatments for childhood cancer.

Currently, the UA Steele Center is working to raise $500,000 to complete the endowed chair’s goal of $2 million.

An endowed chair is the highest academic honor a scholar can achieve. It is a testament to his/her achievements and is vital to the recruitment and retention of the best and the brightest in the field. Moreover, it is a mechanism of unending funding for research. This allows the holder of the endowed chair to retain researchers in his/her laboratory for years. Every dollar invested into the work of an endowed researcher is leveraged many times over by the chair holder and his or her team in securing major extramural grant funding.