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Why We Give: The Barrett Family

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Patrick Barrett's legacy lives on through his family.

The right cancer drug in the right dose at the right time: that’s what Greg and Molly Barrett want for all kids with cancer.

Their son Patrick passed away in March 2016. He survived Ewing’s sarcoma but was later diagnosed with osteosarcoma—another form of bone cancer—during his first semester of college at Indiana University.

Patrick was one of the first patients in the Precision Genomics Program at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, a program that targets therapies based on a child’s DNA and the molecular nuances of their specific cancer tumor. Riley Hospital is one of the few pediatric facilities to offer such highly customized cancer treatment, and genetic testing is paramount to successfully treat aggressive or relapsed cancers.

Patrick’s cancer progressed to a terminal stage before the Precisions Genomics Program was fully implemented at Riley Hospital, but the Barretts want to make sure other pediatric cancer patients have no barriers to the testing. “Our hope would be for this testing to become routine,” says Greg. “We would have paid for it.”

It is an expensive test with costs ranging from $7,000 to $35,000, and insurance rarely covers that hefty price tag. Turning their pain into a passion, the Barretts started the “P.S. We Love You” fund to cover genetic testing costs for families. The first fundraiser for the campaign came last fall, when the Barretts rallied the forces of the Wabash Valley Football Coaches Association and launched the Tackle Cancer campaign. T-shirts were sold at dozens of football games across the state raising over $40,000. Greg is the head football coach at South Vermillion High School in Clinton, Ind., and for the 2017 season he has the backing of the Indiana Football Coaches Association. “Football and coaching are a tight community,” says Greg. “We teach our kids how to give back. They realize the game of football is not always that important.”

The 2018 goal of the Tackle Cancer campaign is $150,000 by engaging 150 schools to raise $1,000 each. “Patrick wouldn’t have wanted to be the center of attention like this,” said Greg. “But he was a chemistry major and was interested in becoming an oncologist. The research and science behind precision genomics intrigued him.” 

The research is critical to the goal of offering the best care for every kid according to Renbarger. “Donor support for innovative precision medical research is so important to what we do. It differentiates our program at Riley. We are not randomly testing kids. We are improving outcomes of kids we are caring for and for kids in the future.”

The memory of this bright young man with a dazzling smile is kept alive by the “P.S. We Love You” fund. “We used to tell Patrick as he was leaving the house “’P.S. – I love you!’ since his full name was Patrick Stephen,” said Molly.

But “we” is more appropriate for the name of their fund. Patrick has inspired a formidable team of coaches, students, parents and doctors, fighting together to ensure every kid with cancer gets their treatment dialed in perfectly.

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