By Aislinn Keely
Residence Halls Association (RHA) hosted Joe McDonough, founder of the Andrew McDonough B+ Foundation, to tell the story of his son’s battle with pediatric cancer and spread awareness for B+ fundraising events. This was the first time the RHA event was open to all Fordham students, as McDonough had only spoken to members of RHA in past years.
“We wanted to reach out to more clubs, and obviously by doing that hand in hand comes distributing information the same way too,” said Haley Hauge, GSB ’18, vice president of RHA. “I think Fordham has a good interest in speaker events, so it was a decision to engage in that outreach a little bit more.”
“The more people that we’re given the opportunity to share our story with, the more hearts we can touch,” said McDonough.
McDonough’s son Andrew, a fourteen-year-old baseball and soccer player, was diagnosed with leukemia on Jan. 29, 2007.
“Two days earlier I was cheering on Andrew at a soccer tournament. His heart had stopped,” said McDonough.
Andrew fought leukemia for 166 days after the initial diagnosis and heart attack that ensued. McDonough recalled that Andrew underwent 50 operations, took 20 to 30 medications each day and breathed with the help of a ventilator or a manual ventilation apparatus when in transit to the OR.
“That’s how fragile my son’s life was,” McDonough reflected.
McDonough recounted Andrew’s passing after his fourth stroke in July 2007. Andrew would be 24 years old this year.
Plans for the B+ Foundation began while Andrew was still battling leukemia. McDonough thought Andrew would be involved after his recovery. However, after Andrew’s passing, McDonough found it difficult to return to his job when he sought work that provided him more meaning. He began work on the foundation.
“We were at rock bottom. And I remember we helped a handful of families in 2007, and I thought, ‘wow that felt good’ like honoring Andrew’s memory,” said McDonough.
“I think it’s always important to get grounded to the deep meaning of why we’re here,” said Hauge. “Just finding that deep ‘why’, it’s for the kids.”
Emma Bausert, FCRH ’17, executive president of RHA, said she hoped McDonough’s message would motivate students.
“Especially trying to grow FDM and all the events that go with it, we feel that his message is best spoken directly from him,” said Bausert. “For some people, hopefully, it’s maybe the first time they’re hearing about B+. It’s kind of putting a direct motivation to the work that they will hopefully do in signing up at this point.”
According to McDonough, the foundation got its name from Andrew’s blood type, B positive, which he felt was also an attitude Andrew espoused.
The B+ Foundation sponsors research to find cures for childhood cancers and advancements in chemotherapy, as well as provide financial assistance to families of children with cancer. It has awarded $1,000,000 in research grants over the last two years and plans to provide over $1,000,000 to families of children with cancer this year.
100 percent of donations go directly to funding research and helping families.
“This is not one of those situations where you mail your check away and don’t know what happens,” said McDonough. “You raise it, and it goes to families and research.”
The B+ Foundation operates out of donated office spaces.
McDonough recounted stories of families have benefited from B+ and highlighted B+’s role in funding the recent cancer research breakthrough that uses the polio virus to combat brain tumors.
“We paid, I simply write the check. You make it possible,” said McDonough.