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 tichenor

Spencer 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 »

Spencer Heyfron/Redux for Reader's Digest

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