Valerie Fund founder sets $1 million target

Valerie Fund founder sets $1 million target

Inspired by daughter’s spirit, Goldsteins call runners to park event

Walkers and runners in Verona Park for last year’s Valerie Fund event.
Walkers and runners in Verona Park for last year’s Valerie Fund event.

Ed and Sue Goldstein of Warren are hoping to see Verona Park swarming with people on June 11, and it looks likely to happen. The walk and 5K run, in aid of the Valerie Fund, has attracted over 3,000 participants from around the region, and they are hoping many more will sign up and inspire more sponsors to come on board.

About 300 of those runners will be sporting bright green T-shirts indicating that they are Valerie Fund alumnae, people who have had cancer treatment as children in the outpatient centers supported by the fund.

Ed set a goal of $1 million for the run, to help finance more such care.

Each year, the fund helps provide comprehensive health treatment for around 5,000 children with cancer and blood disorders through seven TVF Children’s Centers at hospitals in New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. They provide not only medical treatment but also emotional, social, and developmental care for the whole family, in a setting that is bright and inviting and child-oriented.

“No one is ever turned away because they can’t pay,” Ed told NJ Jewish News.

Funding is also needed for TVF’s Camp Happy Times, the summer program that provides between 185 and 200 children who had had or are currently undergoing cancer treatment with a week of recreational activities at a site in Wayne County, Pa., among others who share their circumstances. Many of the camp’s counselors are cancer survivors themselves. The fund covers all costs.

The fund’s LITE program, meanwhile, gathers information on the long-term effects of cancer treatment on children, and how to deal with them.

Ed isn’t new to fund-raising. The Warren resident was general chairman for United Jewish Appeal in Central Jersey West and has served on the board of the Jewish Federation of Central New Jersey. He and Sue, who are members of Congregation B’nai Israel in Basking Ridge, have been involved in numerous causes. But this one is particularly close to their hearts. They established the fund just three weeks after their nine-year-old daughter Valerie died from cancer in 1976.

“We had so much adrenalin, we had to do something,” Sue said. “It was very difficult,” she said, but they have also derived enormous satisfaction and pleasure from establishing the fund, from the people it has brought them into contact with and the children they have seen helped by TVF centers.

They followed the same model in 2001 when their elder daughter, Stacy, died of breast cancer at 37 and they established the Stacy Goldstein Breast Cancer Center at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey in New Brunswick.

Many of the children helped by TVF have gone on to volunteer at the centers, and to take part in fund-raising efforts. “They are amazing people,” Ed said.

One such “graduate” is Alex Kaufman, a senior at Livingston High School. As a baby he developed cancer in one of his kidneys and was treated at a TVF center. He doesn’t remember it, but, he told NJJN, he knows what a difference it made for him and his parents. “We were in good hands, and it made the experience so much easier because they treated us so well,” he said.

As he prepares to start at Penn State University, he volunteers twice a week at the fund’s headquarters in Maplewood. “Rather than sit on a couch watching TV, I go and help out,” he said.

His parents and his aunt are also TVF volunteers.

Alex won’t be participating in this year’s run because his prom is the night before, but a team formed by his cousin — Formycuz — will walk in his honor. On June 11, there will also be a Sue’s Team and others named for survivors, for people who are in treatment, and for some who have passed away.

Ed is optimistic that more people will come, drawn by the cause and the festive camaraderie of the event. That optimism reminds him of Valerie — who, he said, remained bright as a button despite all she went through. Remembering that attitude still lights up her parents’ faces, and fuels their determination to minimize cancer’s impact on any child’s life.

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