Meet the Parents Fighting to End Pediatric Cancer

When these parents heard the unimaginable words “your child has cancer,” they grieved—then got to work to help find a cure.

By Kimberly Hiss
Also in Reader's Digest Magazine March 2014

lisa tichenorSpencer Heyfron/Redux for Reader’s Digest

An unbreakable Bond

When it became apparent that Lisa and Mac Tichenor’s 19-year-old 
son, Willie, would not survive the osteosarcoma he’d been battling 
for three years, they asked him on a February afternoon in 2006 what he wanted them to do after he’d passed away. His two answers: “Find new treatments for patients like me” and “Take care of my friends.”

So the Dallas couple founded What Would Willie Want, the QuadW Foundation, an organization committed to advancing sarcoma research. They asked his brother, Taylor, now 29, and eight of Willie’s friends who had been at his side throughout his treatments to serve as the board of directors.

They hosted an exploratory meeting with scientists from institutions across the country to better understand the research field. As the researchers talked about obstacles they’d all experienced, a common denominator emerged: The osteosarcoma tissue bank maintained by the Children’s Oncology Group, which houses the samples investigators use for experiments, wasn’t fully annotated, which meant researchers couldn’t analyze all the samples.

QuadW funded the staff so they could gather the necessary information. “That has led to some terrific developments for research,” says Lisa, 57. QuadW’s other projects include sponsoring the next generation of sarcoma researchers by helping fund the Young Investigator Award. Today, the QuadW board has conference calls every month and in-person meetings every six. Each member 
attends at least one medical conference a year to identify the foundation’s next projects.

“These kids miss Willie like we do,” says Lisa. “They’re carrying out his wishes by coming up with so many great ideas for our grants. They tell me they feel like nothing is impossible.”

To make a donation, visit

Next: Frank Kalman and Kids Cancer Research Foundation »

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  • Your Comments

    • Phaerisee

      I think the word “inspiring” tends to get overused, but in this case it applies.

    • James

      Nothing worse than what you and your child are going through
      i sympathize as I was diagnosed with a rare blood condition and found that there is very little being done for a cure only expensive treatment and believe that only the mass cancer issue are being addressed and even those are lobbyists controlled .. Example Leukemia foundation a wonderful group with true financial suppot compared to American Cancer Society which will par for your car fare to the hospital I have know I idea what they are doing with their money for research to cover the gamut..People don’t want to hear about the C word they just give money and the do diligence is in a cloud..

    • Deb

      Please be aware that Penn State University holds a THON each year to benefit children’s cancer research and expenses. They have raised over $100M since it began over 20 years ago ($12M last year alone). This is the largest student run philanthropy in the world–the students spent weekends in the fall “canning” throughout the eastern United States and I even saw a homeless man put money in a can in center city Philadelphia! Then they hold a dance marathon in February (coming up in a few days) where they dance for 46 hours. It’s a really emotional event because many student organizations will “adopt” a childhood cancer patient and their family and the students provide support to that family throughout the year with visits, treats, cards, etc. and then the families are invited to attend the thon event to “support” their dancers. It’s the highlight of the year for some of these kids.

    • Nancy

      Wonderful story!! I lost my son Alexander on April 1’2011 to neuroblastoma. He was just 21 months old. Before he was diagnosed, I “knew” kids got cancer, but I never really gave it much thought. It is an evil horrible disease. I am glad there are parents like these, along with others that are raising funds to help the kids. Not is just sad, that it is the PARENTS doing all the work, and the government giving just 4% of the cancer funding to the kids.