Sandy and Lionel Chaiken
Sandy and Lionel Chaiken are well known figures in the Washington, D.C. brain tumor community. One of the Chaiken's daughters, Pamela Sue, died in 1995 after fighting brain cancer for 13 years. Since Pam's death, the Chaikens' life passion has been raising money and awareness for brain cancer.
Sandy and Lionel have participated in and started support groups around the Washington, D.C. area. The support groups have allowed the Chaikens to grieve for their daughter and connect with other patients and family members who are fighting their own battles with brain tumors. The Chaikens speak of finding “a new normal” – where things are not the same as before they lost a child, but “can still be good.”
Sandy and Lionel’s new normal became a commitment to make a difference for the future of people diagnosed with brain cancer. They started by contacting friends and colleagues in hopes of raising funds for brain tumor research. "Losing a child is the most devastating experience to have to endure and we wanted to prevent other families from suffering the way we have,” said Lionel. This commitment is what drew Sandy and Lionel to Dana Daczkowski and her sister, Nike Beddow.
Together, in 1997, the two families started Race for Hope in Washington, D.C. to raise awareness and funds for patients with brain tumors. "This cause is so important," said Lionel, "and the general public doesn’t know too much about it.” Lionel emphasizes the positive and says, “You learn that to help is to heal – and healing for patients with brain tumors or family members who have lost a loved one, is an ongoing process.”
The Race for Hope has remained an important part of the healing process for the Chaikens. Lionel, Sandy and their daughter, Stephanie, have participated in the race each of the ten years since its founding. While serving in many capacities, Lionel has focused on fundraising. He has continued knocking on doors and phoning potential donors despite his own diagnosis with a brain tumor, an acoustic neuroma, and suffering a stroke last year.
Nothing slows him down. “I just don’t hear the word, no,” explains Lionel. “I hear, there is someone else who wants to help people with brain tumors and I move on.” Sandy and Lionel’s team raised just under $50,000 in 2006 and have set their goal even higher for 2007.
When asked what Sandy and Lionel envision for this year’s Race for Hope, Lionel responds, "We're going to make things happen in a big way!”