Teens Spend President’s Day Viewing Live Brain Surgery at Barrow
(February 2014) Brain surgeons at St. Joseph’s Barrow Neurological Institute educate a special audience each year when dozens of Arizona teenagers representing Students Supporting Brain Tumor Research (SSBTR) view a live brain surgery and begin their final countdown for their record-setting charity event. The organization’s annual walk-a-thon held at Saguaro High attracts large numbers of students from 80 schools throughout the state.
The group has already raised a staggering $2 million for its cause since its founding in 2002. Much of the money raised supports brain tumor research at Barrow.
Alexander Michunovich of Scottsdale, a Saguaro High School senior and 2014 SSBTR student co-chair, says he thinks the organization attracts students throughout the state because, “brain tumors don’t discriminate and SSBTR gives students the power to make a difference for not just their school, but the general public.”
Local high school teacher, Steve Glassman, established SSBTR 12 years ago, with help from a handful of student volunteers shortly after three students from the school district were diagnosed with -- and ultimately succumbed to -- brain tumors. The group’s first annual charity event attracted support from four high schools and raised $7,500. Since then, it has grown into a highly organized and successful non-profit.
Adriene C. Scheck, PhD, a brain tumor researcher at Barrow, touts the students’ tenacity for advancing brain tumor research and awareness over the years. “We invite the group to view a live brain surgery at Barrow on Presidents’ Day each year as a bit of a reward for all their hard work,” says Dr. Scheck, “so they can see where the money goes and have a better idea of the lives they’re saving.”
Brain tumors are the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under 10, and the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in children under 20. According to the National Brain Tumor Society, 688,096 Americans are living with a brain tumor today.
Matthew Baratz, Arizona School for the Arts senior and 2014 SSBTR student co-chair, says he joined the organization after his grandfather died from a brain tumor.
“For me, it’s important to support others who have had similar experience in losing a loved one to this devastating disease,” says Baratz. “It is gratifying to see how our support dollars fund actual brain tumor research. ”
In addition to supporting brain tumor research at Barrow, funds raised also support Phoenix Children's Hospital, the National Brain Tumor Society, TGen and Steele Children´s Research Center in Tucson.