Student raises money for cancer research in brother’s memory
UDance pairs with B+ Foundation for fundraiser on Sunday
Published: Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Updated: Tuesday, March 16, 2010 01:03
For 167 days, sophomore Ali McDonough lived at the Alfred I. duPont hospital, watching her little brother, her best friend, fight cancer. Staying at school for as little as possible, doing homework in the waiting room and spending the night at the hospital became the norm for McDonough, then a junior in high school.
"I'd get called out of school, and I'd rush into the room and they would be resuscitating him," Ali said. "That's not something you want to see."
Her brother Andrew had more than 50 surgical procedures, four strokes and an aneurysm, leading the doctors to tell the family that he would not make it on more than four occasions, she said.
During this journey, the McDonough family kept one motto in mind: "be positive," a saying that the family adopted after Andrew asked what his blood type was.
"He had never been sick, so we had no idea," Ali said of her brother, who had played four soccer games the 48 hours before his diagnosis with no signs of illness. "Once we got into the hospital, we found it [his blood type] was B+, which we thought was fitting. It became our motto then to, "be positive."
Now Ali is a co-founder of the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, which serves to keep that motto alive long after her brother's death in 2007. She and her parents now run the foundation, and have raised more than $500,000 to fight pediatric cancer since its founding in 2007.
Ali has since become the B+ liaison to the university's largest student run philanthropic organization, UDance, which added the foundation to its benefiting charities last year.
During UDance, thousands of students and professors sing, dance and perform at a 12-hour dance marathon to raise money and awareness for pediatric AIDS and cancer research.
B+ has since expanded to give financial assistance to families of more than 200 pediatric cancer patients in 31 states. The foundation also gives a $250,000 research grant, which has grabbed the attention of big donors such as the Philadelphia Eagles and Phillies, as well as the Chase Community Giving program.
As director of social networking for the foundation, Ali has spread its message to "live like Andrew" through Facebook and Twitter, gaining more than 5,000 fans online. She also spearheaded the Facebook campaign to compete against other charities for grants from the Chase Community Giving project, according to Joe McDonough, Andrew's father and president of the foundation.
Through online voting, B+ was placed in the top 100 charities in the nation, receiving a $25,000 donation from Chase. After reading the foundation's description, the board of the program, including Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria and basketball player David Robinson, decided to grant the foundation an extra $37,000, McDonough said.
This past December, B+ added the Eagles and Phillies to their list of donors. The McDonoughs were given one of the Eagle's Community Quarterback Awards, totaling $11,000. B+ was also adopted as one of the Phillies' charities, receiving $5,000 from the team.
According to Sophie Riegel, manager of community outreach and Phillies charities, the Phillies heard about the B+ Foundation from one of their employees and decided to consider it for its annual giving.
"It went into a pool with a lot of candidates. The board votes on candidates each year, and of course selected without a doubt the B+ Foundation," Riegel said. "It was such a fabulous organization."
The donations by the Philadelphia sports teams were an exciting development for the foundation, Ali said. But, awareness about cancer is equally as important, she said.
"Forty-eight hours after four soccer games he was in cardiac arrest. No signs. I didn't know that was possible," she said. "I want people to realize that it really can happen."
Ali also works with families at duPont Hospital, and hopes to go into counseling to help children with cancer, as well as their siblings.
"I love going to the hospital and visiting the kids, and doing what I think he would want us to do," Ali said. "I want to be for these kids and siblings what I couldn't find for myself, somebody who somewhat gets it."
According to senior Katie Wilson, executive coordinator for UDance, Ali pairs the participating organizations with children with cancer at A.I. DuPont Hospital, called B+ Heroes.
"She gives so much time to each of these kids," Wilson said, "She's very close with everyone, she keeps up with their news, she visits them in the hospital. She's really wonderful."
Pairing college students with children gives a face to the charity, Ali said.
"I hope that at UDance, once everyone sees all of the kids on stage, they realize that it's a serious issue," she said. "Most people don't know about it until they're experiencing it."
The McDonoughs said they hope to expand the foundation beyond Delaware, and raise even more money for financial assistance and pediatric cancer research. But until then, they want people to remember Andrew.
"Nothing that she or we can do will bring our son and brother back," Joe said. "But Ali has still generously given her time to help kids with cancer."