“I was wondering who was fighting for them. They are deafeningly silent.”

Joy Cruse pondered this subject while seeing her son, Connor, interact with other neuroblastoma patients at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

“I believed Connor was one of a kind,” Cruse remarked. “I’ve always thought he was incredible. He appeared to have the most fortitude. Even in the most difficult situations, he could laugh and find joy. When I observed these youngsters in this room, I understood that they face more than many adults. The heavy doses of chemotherapy, the procedures, but they were joyous and had a wonderful attitude. I have a lot of respect for them.”

When Connor was four years old, he was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma. After years of battling neuroblastoma, he developed a secondary malignancy in 2008 from the radiation used to treat the neuroblastoma before dying in July 2009, according to Cruse.

The improper growth of immature nerve cells known as neuroblasts causes neuroblastoma. Most neuroblasts grow and eventually become mature nerve cells when a foetus grows, either before birth or within the first few months following birth. However, neuroblasts do not always grow properly. They continue to develop and divide rather than mature into nerve cells. These aberrant neuroblasts die off in some cases, but in others, they grow into tumours or neuroblastoma.

Cruse and her husband, Tait, started a project a year before Connor died to assist fund research for treating and eventually curing childhood illnesses. Team Connor had been conceived.

They have since collaborated with a number of additional groups and enterprises, like the Dallas Mavericks, Three Forks, and Lifetime Fitness, to mention a few. With events like the forthcoming III Forks Golf Classic, a clay shooting event in November, and a Smash-Out Childhood Cancer tennis event in January, Team Connor is able to earn upwards of $5 million per year for laboratory and clinical research to help fight childhood malignancies.

“We generate money all year, and at the end of the year, we receive these hospitals and institutes,” Cruse explained. “They will submit funding proposals, and we have a medical advisory board that determines which clinical studies to support.”

The main event of the foundation is the III Forks Golf Classic and auction supper, which will take place on September 25-26. The dinner will be held on Sunday night, while the golf classic will be held on Monday at Gleneagles Country Club.

“The most satisfying component is that when we support the study, whether it’s in the laboratory or in the clinical stage when people are receiving it, we ask them to send us reports back twice a year,” Cruse explained.

A large portion of the research funded by the organisation is in the clinical stage, where patients get the drug.

“What’s most exciting is when we receive findings that show, ‘hey, this is really moving the needle,’ ‘we’re getting excellent outcomes,’ ‘this is sending the cancer into remission,’ or ‘it’s maintaining it in remission for a longer length of time,” Cruse said. “One of the Fort Worth doctors stated that she believes we will have a cancer cure in our lifetime.” There is an urgency until that happens because we lose thousands of children each year because we don’t have the remedy. Every day, we lose children, and there is a sense of pressure to get there faster.”