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Philanthropy plays an integral role in propelling research at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford and Stanford University School of Medicine. Donor support enables our teams to conduct more studies and care for more children, especially those who experience uncommon—and sometimes devastating—conditions.

Their Philanthropy

Dylan Shaffer was just 16 months old when he passed away from Synovial Sarcoma. This is an extremely rare and aggressive type of cancer that affects the soft tissues surrounding bones and organs.

In honor of Dylan, his parents, Katie Castles and Dan Shaffer, raise money to support the Rare Sarcoma Program at the School of Medicine. They want to give other families hope.

“It’s our way to create something productive and positive out of tragedy,” says Katie.

This past summer, we hosted the 9th annual Summer Scamper, a 5k, 10k, and kids’ fun run benefiting Packard Children’s. Nearly 4,000 supporters flooded the Stanford campus on a Sunday morning in June. Team Dylan Shaffer, 76 people strong, raised $13,000 for the Rare Sarcoma Program.

Katie and Dan graciously support the hospital in many ways, from Summer Scamper to the donation of artwork for our hospital’s new hematology/oncology inpatient unit on the fifth floor. They have pledged a lifetime goal of $2 million to fund rare sarcoma research and help children with cancer.

Their Mission

“There are many things about Dylan's life and death upon which we can look back and be grateful,” says Katie. “One major piece is our connection to Dr. Sheri Spunt. She was able to identify Dylan's cancer and give us clear answers around his death.”

Sheri Spunt, MD, MBA, the Endowed Professor of Pediatric Cancer at the School of Medicine, has dedicated her time and efforts to researching more effective treatments for rare sarcomas for children and young adults. Her commitment to better understanding this rare cancer inspires her work and has become part of her identity as a researcher.

“In the rare sarcoma world, we are far behind other forms of cancer because no one has taken the time to methodically study these diseases,” says Dr. Spunt. “When I retire, if that is no longer true, then I will have achieved what I was meant to achieve in this life.”

When Dr. Spunt launched the Rare Sarcoma Program, it was clear to Katie and Dan that supporting her efforts to better understand—and ultimately find cures for—these rare cancers would now be their mission.

“Raising money for the Rare Sarcoma Program enables us to create a legacy for our sweet son, but also helps other families avoid the experience we endured,” says Katie. “It’s special people, like Dr. Spunt, who dedicate their work to making a difference in this space. If we can help stop rare sarcomas, we are doing something worthwhile.”

Thank you, Katie, Dan, and Dr. Spunt! We are so grateful that you give children and families hope.

Learn more about Dylan's story and Stanford's Rare Sarcoma Program.

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