Gala History

To celebrate the life of Zachary Hebda, who at age of 5 lost his battle with childhood cancer, the Zachary Hebda Foundation was established as a non-profit organization committed to supporting cancer research at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center, Baltimore, Maryland. The Foundation has been working in conjunction with Johns Hopkins to support cancer research through various fund raising efforts.

After being diagnosed with his illness in November 1998, Zack began a rigorous course of chemotherapy. During the treatment, it was discovered that Zack’s leukemia cells contained a chromosome that made a relapse likely if treated with chemotherapy alone. A bone marrow transplant was performed, but not before Zack’s dream of going to Walt Disney World was fulfilled by the Make-A-Wish Foundation. While at Walt Disney World, Zack was able to star in a live Lion King production and feed the mighty Orca, Shamu, at Sea World; a thrill for any child, but more so for one so brave, so strong and so young.

Zack loved ice skating and riding his bike, and visiting the American History museum to see his favorite exhibit, Dorothy’s ruby red slippers. As the odds began to mount against him, Zack’s time in the hospital began to stretch from days into weeks. Like a little star, Zack continued to shine brightly despite odds that were slowly slipping out of his favor. His hospital room walls were decorated with pictures and cards from his kindergarten friends, and the many well-wishers who collectively prayed for him.

Though Zack has left the lives of those around him, the memory of his precious life continues. In celebration of Zack’s life, his family and friends have channeled their love for him into two annual charity events we have entitled “Zack’s Run,” a 5K race and 1 mile fun run and the Zachary Hebda Foundation Gala. Please see our web page for more details about the race.

This year's Zachary Hebda Foundation Gala will be an elegant dinner evening featuring a silent and live auction on Saturday, September 11, 2010. All of the proceeds from this event will go directly to exiting research conducted at Johns Hopkins. We are very excited about the research that we have funded in the past. Based on funding from these events, clinical trials have been funded that have opened successfully new treatment protocols for children with cancer. We are very excited about the future research and we look forward to your continued support.

Patients with Hodgkin Disease that progresses or recurs after treatment with chemotherapy and/or radiation may be cured by bone marrow transplantation. The standard approach is to collect and freeze stem cells from the patient’s blood. Later, very high-dose therapy is given that destroys the marrow along with the lymphoma, and the patient’s own frozen stem cells are given back to restore the marrow, a process called autologous stem cell transplantation (ASCT). However, relapse remains the major risk these patients face after standard ASCT.

Normally, a patient’s immune system is tolerant to his or her own cells, including the lymphoma cells. Researchers at Johns Hopkins have developed a method to block tolerance temporarily in a patient’s immune system as it recovers after ASCT. Our hypothesis is that we can induce the immune system to attack residual Hodgkin Disease and reduce the risk of relapse after ASCT. Dr. Chen is leading a national study in children and young adults based on this hypothesis. Funding from the Hebda Foundation will allow him to test blood samples from these patients to see whether patients receiving immune therapy have circulating cells that can attack and kill their own lymphocytes, and prove whether this immune response reduces relapse and improves survival.

The Zachary Hebda Foundation, Inc., sponsors of “Zack’s Run” and the Zachary Hebda Foundation Gala, is a non-profit organization, Federal Tax ID number 52-2212454. All proceeds will benefit local research seeking cures for childhood cancers and provide education benefits to children suffering from childhood cancer. All donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent permitted by law.

Here are some pictures of the Gala from previous years.

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