Barrett “Bear” Krupa died of cancer at age 8, after a 5 1/2-year battle and five relapses.
Shortly before his death, Bear asked his mother, Kathleen Casey, to start an organization in his name to help kids fighting pediatric cancer and their families.
“He saw a plaque on the wall in his Comer Children’s Hospital room explaining that it had been donated as a memorial to an earlier patient,” Casey says. “He said ‘Mom we need to do something to help other kids battling cancer like me.’”
“Bear” Krupa’s Wish
Casey honored his wish with the Bear Necessities Pediatric Cancer Foundation. It serves a great need, because according to the American Childhood Cancer Organization, every 3 1/2 minutes, a child is diagnosed with cancer. Worse yet, pediatric cancer is the number one cause of death by disease in American children.
What Casey started in her Algonquin kitchen 20 years ago has grown to be the largest pediatric cancer research foundation in the Midwest. Along with research, they also offer emotional and financial support for kids with cancer and their families through its Bear Hugs program.
The Foundation’s Bear Hugs Program fulfills requests from ailing kids valued up to $500. “Some children want a limo ride and to attend a Cubs game. Others get an Xbox 360,” Casey says. “In one instance, the child’s fulfilled Bear Hug was a personal meet-and-greet with country music star LeAnn Rimes.”
Bear Hugs Video
Pediatric Cancer Research Funding Needed More Than Ever
Unfortunately, cancer research for children is underfunded. “Pediatrics receives only 3 percent of all cancer research funds,” Casey says. “Only two new drugs have been developed in the last 20 years.” So the Foundation contributes two-thirds of its annual proceeds to support research projects by emerging experts.
By collaborating with other nonprofits, Bear Necessities is now growing across the country. The goal is to make Bear Necessities a household name, with the hope that this will raise substantially more awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research.
Casey attributes part of her success launching and growing Bear Necessities to her childhood and youth on the North Shore, where philanthropy and service seemed to be deeply embedded in the culture. “Our family was not wealthy, but we always gave back,” she explains. “I was drawn to every service opportunity.”
“People ask me all the time, isn’t it great to be celebrating our 20th Anniversary?” Casey pauses, “Yes. And no. Pediatric cancer research is still woefully underfunded and children continue to be diagnosed, relapsing and sadly dying from this disease. We need to be their advocates now more than ever.”
3 Ways You Can Help Fight Cancer in Children
1. Bear Necessities welcomes donations and volunteers from the northern suburbs, as well as any new events that people or organizations would like to create to help fight cancer in children.
2. You can also make plans to participate at one of their four signature Chicago events in the next year.
- 20th Anniversary Bear Tie Ball: Saturday, March 9, UIC Forum, Chicago, 6 p.m. to midnight
- Team Bear: Dedicate any upcoming 5K, 10K, marathon, half marathon or triathlon to fight cancer in children.
- Golf for the Bear: Thursday, June 13, Ruffled Feathers Golf Club, Lemont, IL
- A Purple Affair for the Bear: January, 2014
3. Contribute online to fight cancer in children. According to Charity Navigator, 81.8 percent of Bear Necessities’ total budget is spent on programming, services and research funding.
4. Purchase a Bear Necessities Bangle of Wishes. This silver bangle has a hook closure, and is accented with purple glass beads, silver beads, and a purple Swarovski crystal in the center. The bracelet only costs $15, and 40 percent of the profits will directly benefit Bear Necessities. Purchase your bangle online through Etsy.
You might also be interested in the following recent articles:
“When Billy Went Bald” Receives Moonbeam Children’s Book Award
Bloggers Find Power Through Vulnerability
(photo: Kathleen Casey, left, with Bear Tie Ball Co-Chair Tracy Scurto)