‘Friends of Colin’ Donates $20,000 Towards Ewing Sarcoma Research at Georgetown Lombardi

Posted in GUMC Stories

MARCH 20, 2015 – People might be surprised to discover that a $20,000 donation to Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center (new window) is the work of three teenagers.    

For the past four years, Friends of Colin (new window), a nonprofit group formed by three Cranford, N.J. neighbors, Ryan McGann, Gary Hoffman and Maggie McKay, has been supporting Ewing sarcoma cancer research. Since 2011, they’ve hosted a series of community fundraising events, and to date have donated $20,000 to Georgetown Lombardi to support the research of Jeffrey Toretsky, MD (new window), a pediatric oncologist specializing in Ewing sarcoma.

“Friends of Colin is trying to help raise awareness and money for research that is extremely underfunded,” says McKay, who manages community relationships for the organization and is now a sophomore at Loyola University in Baltimore.

McKay and two others created the organization in 2011 following the death of Colin Maher, their friend who died from Ewing sarcoma after battling the disease for five years.

“Friends of Colin was Ryan’s idea as a tribute to our friend,” says Hoffman, who handles media and communications for the group. “We decided that a nonprofit in Colin’s name would be the best way to honor his life, remember his death, and fight the disease responsibly.”

Making a Direct Impact

McGann found Toretsky after searching for individuals who were making significant strides in Ewing sarcoma research. Since connecting, the group has maintained a close relationship with Toretsky, who has taught them more about the disease and how he is working to find a cure (new window).

Although Ewing sarcoma research tends to receive little attention from donors due to its relatively low rate of occurrence, the rate has been rising for the last three decades (new window), especially in older teens and young adults. Donations from organizations such as Friends of Colin help to bridge the widening gap between cancer funding and research.

On a recent trip to Georgetown Lombardi, Hoffman presented a $10,000 check to Toretsky, and Aykut Üren, MD (new window), who collaborates with Toretsky on Ewing Sarcoma research.

“This is their second donation to support our research,” says Toretsky. “I am honored that they would contribute so that we can design and execute challenging experiments.”

A Community Effort

One way Friends of Colin gains support is by holding community fundraisers such as the upcoming annual Colin J. Maher Easter Egg Hunt on March 28 in Cranford. The event, which has become a staple in the Cranford community where the teenagers grew up, also serves as a memorial for Colin, who looked forward to the hunt each year. 

“Whenever I think of Colin, I always remember a smiling, good-natured kid,” says Hoffman, an undergraduate at Duke University. “He lived with the same passion and optimism no matter whether he was helping his mom set up for the neighborhood Easter egg hunt or playing a game of pick-up.”

In addition to the Easter Egg Hunt, Friends of Colin has hosted benefit concerts and athletic tournaments and plans to include a 5K race in the future.

“Knowing that this money is going directly to cancer research and could one day help find a cure is what I’m most proud of,” says McKay. “Also knowing that Colin is up there watching us with a smile on his face makes it all worth it.”

To learn more about Friends of Colin, please visit www.friendsofcolin.org (new window) or view their Facebook page (new window).

By Cherisse Cobrand
Georgetown Lombardi Communications