Behind every child diagnosed with pediatric cancer, there is a family fighting an arduous battle. In the case of Maggie Schmidt of Greenlawn, that battle became an enduring mission.
In October of 2016, the then-16-year-old girl met her life-altering diagnosis of malignant rhabdoid tumors (MRT), a rare and aggressive cancer that occurs mostly in infants and toddlers. When she consistently complained of increasing pain, her family knew something was very wrong.
“Maggie had a very high tolerance for pain,” says Maggie’s mother, Donna DeSousa-Schmidt. “It was all very hard — the speed at which the illness struck and the complete lack of availability of life-saving treatments.”
As the cancer resisted treatment and overtook her once healthy body, it did not diminish her spirit. One of Maggie’s final wishes to her family was having her spirit live on through helping others.
And so began Maggie’s Mission. The nonprofit foundation’s goal is to fund life-saving research and aid families that have been affected, while also raising awareness.
“Research for cures for pediatric cancers is completely underfunded,” DeSousa-Schmidt says, specifically indicating that less than 4 percent of federal funds go toward finding cures for childhood cancers and even less for the type of sarcoma Maggie had.
From events such as Maggie‘s Challenge, held in schools during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September, to a one-mile New Year’s Day race, a high school concert, and an Angelversary Gala, people have come together to not only celebrate Maggie’s life, but to honor and help those in similar situations.
Since Maggie’s battle with MRT ended on June 1, 2017, her foundation has raised nearly $700,000. Some of that funding has gone directly into MRT research at Memorial Sloan Kettering, while more than $50,000 has been donated to helping families financially.
“Typically one parent must stop working to care for the sick child, so not only is there a huge emotional toll but also a tremendous financial strain,” says DeSousa-Schmidt. “We’ve all come together to fulfill Maggie’s wish.”
To learn more about the mission, visit maggiesmission.org