UW-Oshkosh students taking action to raise awareness for childhood cancer research

Paint with Purpose Event hosted by UW-Oshkosh Students Friday February 23, 2018. (WLUK/Pafoua Yang)

OSHKOSH (WLUK) -- UW-Oshkosh students are striving to combat childhood cancer through painting.

Monica Salmeri, a senior at UWO, was excited to see people putting paint brushes to canvases on Friday at the Fire Escape art studio.

"I grew up in a neighborhood where childhood cancer was prominent, so its really cool to see people really caring about the issue," Salmeri said.

Salmeri along with other students at UW-Oshkosh put together the 'Paint with Purpose' event as part of a college project. The event raised money for a non-profit called 'With Purpose.'

'With Purpose' focuses on helping kids with cancer get access to safe and effective treatment options. The organization was founded by Erin Benson after her 2-year-old son, Sam, was diagnosed with a fatal brain cancer.

According to the organization's site, Benson was told the best modern treatment would give Sam another year. Because Sam was only 2, he was not eligible for clinical trials. Sam eventually passed away.

Salmeri explained, "They really want to reach a younger audience, so we figured painting will be a great opportunity and Fire Escape was a good partnership to have so that's how the idea of today came about."

Fire Escape co-owner Rebecca Graf said when the student group asked to partner with the business, she couldn't say no.

"Anything with kids, right to my heart," Graf said, "I have a lot of kids and grand-kids that are in our studio. We are totally family based, so love the purpose."

Painters at Fire Escape purchased either a board, canvas or pottery to paint on. Fifteen percent of the proceeds go towards the non-profit. Graf said if painters wanted to come another time to donate money for the organization, they can still do so.

"With Purpose' donates their money to two different area, one is Kids V Cancer, which works highly with legislation. The other part of donations goes towards a research institute which works for childhood cancer," Salmeri told FOX 11.

According to the 'With Purpose' organization site, in the last 30 years, only 4 new drug treatments have been approved by the FDA.

The organization also says currently, there's a lack of funding for research.

Salmeri said, "So that's not very good and additionally only 4% of national cancer institute budgets goes to childhood cancer research, which leaves 96% that's not going towards children and I think that's kind of heartbreaking."

Students raised more than $300 on Friday.

On Saturday, the students will host a social at Mahoney's Restaurant and Bar in Oshkosh where attendees will hear from 'With Purpose' founder, Erin Benson.

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