In 2001, the Birrell family started The James Fund For Neuroblastoma Research to raise money for research to find a cure for their son James, who had been diagnosed with Neuroblastoma.
In the first year, they raised funds for one-year “seed grants”, to test new ideas about Neuroblastoma which had never been explored before. Those funds were immediately put to use, with a researcher on the job within weeks. At the end of the year, any promising results were taken to big granting agencies which often funded development of those ideas over the next few years.
Since inception, The James Fund has raised more than $6 Million dollars and continues to help fund the ground-breaking research of Dr. Meredith Irwin, Paediatrician-in-Chief, Department of Paediatrics, Oncologist and Senior Scientist in Cell Biology at SickKids, and Dr. David Kaplan, Senior Scientist in Neurosciences & Mental Health at SickKids. Drs. Irwin and Kaplan have remained in their positions as co-heads of the James Fund Laboratories in Neuroblastoma Research and have pursued several exciting projects, including discovering potential preventative treatments for metastases. The James Fund is also a key supporter in the Kids Cancer Sequencing (KiCS) Program, funding the genetic sequencing of Neuroblastoma patients.
In efforts to support the whole family while a child is undergoing treatment for Neuroblastoma, the James Fund also funds, in part, the Patient Amenities Fund for Neuroblastoma patient families. The Patient Amenities Fund is a source of assistance for families with children living with Neuroblastoma who have limited financial resources and whose child is being cared for by SickKids. For qualifying families, the fund assists with expenses not covered or only partially covered by public health insurance and community resources. These include travel, food, accommodation, medication, and medical equipment.