The three words every parent dreads to hear.

“We’ve found something.” With those words, diagnosing 2-year old Ian’s inoperable brain tumor on November 1, 2005, the near-perfect life of Phil & Cheryl Yagoda ended and the couple began an odyssey they never expected to make. In search for a cure for Ian, the couple consulted countless doctors, research centers and hospitals around the country and learned more than they had ever wanted to know about pediatric brain cancer. And what they experienced led them to start a foundation to change the odds for a disease that afflicts 40,000 children in the U.S.– and to bring something positive out of the agony of having their son diagnosed.

Phil & Cheryl Yagoda with Arly & Sophie & Ian.

Ian’s Friends Foundation (IFF) is focused on making people aware of the shocking incidence of pediatric brain tumors, and raising money to fund groundbreaking research, new therapies and diagnostics, and find new answers — quickly. The good news is that Ian has defied the odds and is now a spunky, adorable six-year old; the not-so-good news is that he still has a brain tumor and as children reach puberty, hormones often cause tumors to grow very aggressively. For Ian and thousands of other children, it’s a race against time.

Ian Yagoda.

Every day, nine children in the U.S. are diagnosed with brain tumors.(In fact, I found out last week that the 13-year old grandson of a close friend of ours has Stage 4 inoperable brain cancer.) Pediatric brain tumors kill more children than any other cancer and are the second leading cause of childhood death, behind accidents. The cure rate for most brain tumors is significantly lower than for many other types of cancer – perhaps because brain tumor research is under funded and the public remains unaware of the magnitude of this disease.

Arly, Sophie & Ian

These are the statistics the Yagodas are trying desperately to change –pouring all the helplessness they feel against this vicious disease into positive, loving action. With the help of generous supporters, IFF funds four labs doing promising work on a multitude of fronts. Every dollar that is donated to IFF goes 100% to research, not to indirect costs. And the Yagodas are using every one of their considerable connections to raise awareness and money to uncover a cure.

All for one & one for all

On September 11 in Atlanta, Ian’s Friends Foundation is hosting a dazzling Evening of Inspiration Gala that promises to be a night to remember – with signature cocktails, outstanding food and wine, and truly incredible auction items like a walk-on to “Entourage” (that’s mine!), a tennis lesson with Chris Evert, a 7-day adventure in India, and a week in Salvatore Ferragamo’s luxury villa in Tuscany. Tickets are $250 and if I weren’t going to be at a wedding in NYC, I would totally be there, outbidding you!

For everything the Yagodas are courageously doing to save their own son, and to offer comfort, solace and solutions to the parents of the 40,000 other children who had to hear those dreaded three words, I’m donating $100 today. To join me, click here. To buy ticket to the Gala, click here.

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What Gives News Flash!

Shawn Baker of Helen Keller International (see my post on 8/31)  appeared on Nicholas Kristof’s blog in the New York Times on September 3, writing on the famine crisis in Niger. To read it, click here!