When Sue and Ed Goldstein’s 3-year-old daughter Valerie was diagnosed with cancer in 1970, New Jersey lacked a pediatric oncology facility. During Valerie’s six years of treatment, the Warren couple would commute to Babies & Children’s Hospital in New York, while also working and caring for their older daughter, Stacy.
“The whole thing was really hard,” says Sue. “Our daughter at home would be parceled out to friends or family.” Sometimes the trips to New York were for bimonthly injections; other times the Goldsteins made daily visits during Valerie’s hospital stays. “In the beginning, [the hospital] didn’t allow parents to stay over. It was terrible,” Sue recalls.
After Valerie succumbed to the disease at age 9, the Goldsteins were determined to ensure that other families with gravely ill children in New Jersey would not have to endure a similar burden. They rallied their friends, did research, met with local hospitals and raised funds. Through their efforts, the Valerie Fund Children’s Center at Overlook Hospital in Summit opened in 1977. It was the first comprehensive-care facility for children with cancer and blood disorders in New Jersey.
Today, there are seven Valerie Fund Centers in New Jersey and New York. “I’m most proud of the fact that we are taking care of our children with cancer and blood disorders here in New Jersey,” Sue says. The centers also provide support services for the families of stricken children.
The Goldsteins’ vision goes beyond treatment facilities. The Valerie Fund runs and supports a weeklong summer camp in Pennsylvania for kids with cancer, an annual holiday party, and a scholarship fund for students who were patients at any of the centers. Last year, the fund awarded merit-based scholarships to 37 children.
Sue and Ed, now in their 70s, are still actively involved with the fund, especially the Annual Valerie Fund Walk and JAG Physical 5K run, which raised more than $1 million in 2012 and 2013.
“People come up to us and tell us what the Valerie Fund has meant to them,” says Ed. “There is no warmer feeling in the world.”
Tragically, the Goldsteins lost their other child, Stacy, to breast cancer in 2001. She was 37. The Stacy Goldstein Breast Cancer Center at the Cancer Institute of New Jersey is dedicated to her memory.Click here to leave a comment