GRIFFITH | Stephanie Nagy Shelbourne misses her 3-year-old son Adler every day.
Adler, of Griffith, died as a result of a cancerous brain tumor in September 2012. On Saturday, Shelbourne honored her son’s memory at the second annual Adler's Birthday Walk, which raised money for brain tumor research at Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis.
Adler would have turned 5 years old Jan. 17.
“I miss him terribly,” Shelbourne said. “My heart aches for him every single minute of the day, but this is a way that I can keep him alive. ... And I will continue this fight every year as my health and my family permits it and they are there to back me on my journey fighting against pediatric brain cancer.”
Shelbourne said pediatric cancer research is so underfunded that the child patients must undergo treatments geared for adults.
“The side effects of these treatments are just horrific: long-term heart defects, hearing loss, unable to eat by mouth again,” Shelbourne said. “The side effects from the chemotherapy, not necessarily from the cancer, are so harsh on these children. A lot more has to be learned.”
Shelbourne described the turnout at Griffith High School as “great.”
Hammond residents Claudia and Jeff Fogus attended the fundraiser with their son Michael, who turned 6 on Tuesday.
Michael Fogus has survived two brain tumors. First diagnosed at 10 months old, he went through two years of treatment at Riley, including intense chemotherapy, brain surgery and stem cell transplant rescue, Claudia Fogus said. Another tumor was discovered in January 2013, and Michael again went through the treatments at Riley along with radiation.
“There is no evidence of disease, and he beat it again,” Fogus said. “So we are also here to help celebrate as well.”
Claudia Fogus said she is proud of what Shelbourne is doing.
“To be able to continue and do this for all the other kids, there are no words,” Claudia Fogus said. “Riley’s has been amazing. I wish that so many people would get on board and actually realize and help out because they need it so bad. It’s so hard just to make it through treatment. Treatment itself is worse than the cancer. Michael was getting drugs that were for adults. They need to make this so children have a better chance.”
Canadian National Railroad Police Officer Eric Graf and his wife Christine, a Lake Hills firefighter, participated in the fundraiser.
“We think it is great that the Shelbournes can continue on,” Eric Graf said. “It is an incredibly difficult thing to do because it is a constant memory. We can’t thank them enough.”
The Calumet Clowns were on hand with face painting and balloons, a magician performed and more than 60 people donated blood to the American Red Cross.
The Northwest Indiana Cancer Kids Foundation provided hot chocolate and bottled water to participants and had an art table for children to create "get well" cards for Riley pediatric patients. The cards will be taken to the hospital along with the donation check, Shelbourne said.
All unsold cakes and sweets were to be taken Sunday to the Ronald McDonald House in Indianapolis, which provides temporary living quarters for families of cancer patients.
Last year’s fundraiser raised $8,200 for Riley. Shelbourne did not have a total amount raised this year.