Research For The Kids
Nominated by bestselling author Heather Gudenkauf
In May 2008, the eldest of Julie and Mark Reiss’s three daughters, Sarah, then twenty years old, was diagnosed with medulloblastoma—a cancerous brain tumor. Sadly, Sarah passed away September 2010.
While Sarah was still undergoing treatment at the University of Iowa, however, her cousin gave birth to a young boy named Matthew Wessels. And though Matthew was also diagnosed with a terrible affliction—congenital heart disease—that requires a lifetime of monitoring, he pulled through.
Both families were so touched by the remarkable care and treatment they received at the University of Iowa hospital, however, they united to give back by raising money and awareness for the two causes dear to their hearts—cancer pediatrics brain tumor research in memory of Sarah and congenital heart defect research in honor of Matthew’s ongoing struggle.
Mark and Julie came up with the Research For The Kids fund-raiser, an annual event held in Dubuque every third Saturday of September, a fun-filled day featuring both a live and silent auction, as well as speakers from the hospital. But the day’s main event is always the “poker run” called Ride For The Kids (RFTK), in which people are free to register different types of vehicles—last year consisted of three hundred and fifty motorcycles, fifty cars and three buses—which they then use to race a distance of up to a hundred miles while stopping only to collect poker cards at different venues en route. Prizes are ultimately handed out to the “winning poker hands” at the end of the ride.
While the months leading up to the event are always hectic, Julie is aware RFTK is made possible through the voluntary contributions of all their dedicated friends and family. To date, their efforts have helped raise over $750,000, with every penny earmarked strictly for brain cancer and heart defect research.
Julie stresses that the generosity of the people of Dubuque in supporting their cause has been phenomenal. “We feel blessed by the love and support of everyone who continues to honor Sarah’s legacy by supporting the ride every year.”
And though Julie is content that RFTK has reached its capacity in size, she’d love to see other communities follow their lead and hold similar events of their own, so all the combined money could take children’s brain tumor and heart defect research further than it’s ever gone before.