This year has been significant for both Austen’s Army Foundation and our inspiration, Austen Lowman. Of course, this Foundation would not exist without Austen’s cancer diagnosis, but we are beyond thrilled that she successfully completed treatment in May and has continued to show no evidence of disease in follow-up scans. She celebrated another milestone in August, entering into kindergarten as a healthy girl with a soft covering of hair, although we all know she had the most beautiful bald head.
As for Austen’s Army Foundation, we enjoyed an eventful year after our establishment in February and recognition by the IRS as a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization in early April. Shortly afterward, we held a small kick-off happy hour in Atlanta, which helped bring together many of the friends and family who had been actively supportive of Austen’s journey and the idea of the Foundation.
We received a steady stream of generous contributions from donors, like you, leading up to our inaugural Concert to Combat Rhabdo in August. The success of this event exceeded our expectations. Proceeds from ticket sales, donations and silent auction bids totaled nearly $8,000! We were so thankful to everyone who was able to join us and look forward to growing this event next year to serve as our largest annual fundraiser.
This October, Jarrett and I traveled to our hometown in Virginia to hold two events. We were delighted by the turnout at Beltway Brewing Co. for Craft Brews for a Cure as well as the golf tournament at Reston National Golf Course. It is our desire to also make these annual events as our roots and connections remain strong in Virginia.
By the end of October, the Foundation had collected more than $43,000 in donations and I would like to share what we have accomplished with these funds in 2018:
Earlier in the year, we committed $10,000 to Project Haystack, led by Children’s Cancer Therapy Development Institute (cc-TDI). This project was supported by a coalition of like-minded organizations and families to fund the pre-clinical validation of a key drug to treat rhabdomyosarcoma.
We presented a $20,000 check to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta to help fund a research being led by Dr. Richard Schnepp to focus on neutralizing a protein mutation found in alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma. It will be especially meaningful to be able to support these efforts at the same hospital where Austen was treated.
In closing, I want to sincerely thank you for your support. In October 2017, our family was hit with a stunning diagnosis and unceremoniously thrown into the world of childhood cancer. As our eyes were opened, our hearts became full with the desire to do something meaningful for the future patients and families who will undergo the same life-changing experience.
We have both the blessing and challenge of being focused solely on rhabdomyosarcoma. The blessing being that funds raised go directly toward finding better treatments and a cure for this rare disease that desperately needs focused funds; the challenge being that there are many wonderful childhood cancer organizations looking to do just as much good as we are. Austen’s Army Foundation will continue to work toward making rhabdomyosarcoma as universally known as other childhood cancers and supporting efforts to find a cure.
Therefore, I would like to humbly ask that you consider Austen’s Army Foundation in your year-end charitable giving or in your 2019 planning. While we consider 2018 to be a great success, we have ambitious goals for the coming year that can only be achieved through donations and ongoing assistance in spreading the word about our mission. You can contribute at any time online at https://www.austensarmy.org/donate or by check to Austen's Army Foundation at 120 Dunlavin Drive, Acworth, GA 30102.
With great love and many thanks,