Arms Wide Open
Billy Sherwood Jr. is a happy, thriving 10-year-old boy. But he wasn’t always like he is today and, for an agonizingly long time, his parents Dena and Bill Sherwood of Marlboro weren’t sure he would live to see his second birthday, much less his tenth.
At 13 months old, Billy Jr. was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of cancer called neuroblastoma. Months and months of hospital stays, testing and surgeries and toxic therapies finally put him on the road to recovery. In fact, it was three-and-a-half years before Billy would finish treatment and be declared cancer-free.
In the early days, Dena felt utterly powerless. She wanted to make it all better for Billy, but had to leave it up to the doctors at Memorial Sloan Kettering. So, while she couldn’t change her baby’s situation, she set out to make a big difference in the world.
Dena founded Arms Wide Open Childhood Cancer Foundation (AWOCCF) in the summer of 2009. Working with scientists, researchers and doctors – all pioneers in the field of pediatric cancer – AWOCCF is hyper-focused on one thing: finding alternative therapies for the treatment of childhood cancers, so children like Billy will someday soon be spared the horrific side effects of chemotherapy and other toxic treatments.
Four years ago, Dena connected with Joseph Wajda, Executive Manager of World Subaru in Shrewsbury, and now the two work together closely to raise money for AWOCCF.
Wajda explains that Subaru’s Share the Love program runs from the end of November to the first week in January each year. Every time a customer purchases a car at a Subaru dealership during that time period, they are offered the opportunity to choose from one of five charities to support with a Subaru funded $250 gift.
At World Subaru, one of those charities is Arms Wide Open. Thanks to the Share the Love program (and some matching funds contributed locally), Wajda says his dealership donated about $36,000 to AWOCCF in 2014, $66,000 in 2015, $88,000 in 2016 and is set to donate more than $100,000 this year.
Wajda says all of the members of the team at World Subaru have taken on Arms Wide Open as their personal cause and work hard in all aspects of fundraising efforts for the charity.
At present, there are more than 40,000 children being treated for childhood cancer, but research remains focused – in most cases - on adult oncology.
“You don’t know what you don’t know about childhood cancer,” Wajda says. “But, once you know, you have to do everything you can to make a difference.”
In addition to Share the Love, Dena and her small but mighty team of volunteers are always hard at work raising money for childhood cancer research. Through the organization’s awareness campaign, The Truth 365, and a series of award-winning documentaries, Arms Wide Open is committed to uniting the pediatric cancer community and working tirelessly to make sure there will be a change to the way childhood cancers are treated in our lifetime. In fact, the group has funded more than 50 grants and donated over $5 million since its founding.
“At Arms Wide Open, we are very thankful that World Subaru has taken on childhood cancer as its cause,” Dena says. “This entire team has been amazing. They truly feel that this is about more than being charitable, that they are interested in taking an active role in making change.”
For more information about Arms Wide Open, visit www.awoccf.org or www.thetruth365.org.