Created by 9-year-old cancer survivor Skylar Wald, whose parents are the co-CEOs of Port Washington, N.Y.-based WAC Lighting, the Skylar Wald Let’s Beat Cancer Fundraiser is asking for the lighting and design community’s support of this philanthropic effort to benefit The H Foundation’s goal to funding cancer research.
Diagnosed with cancer when she was three months old, Skylar survived a courageous battle with cancer and wants to pay it forward by helping other children facing the same health crisis. For many years, WAC and other lighting businesses have supported the Chicago-based H Foundation’s efforts in supporting basic science cancer research on behalf of the Robert H Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, one of the top cancer programs in the country. Skylar’s fundraiser was motivated by having her personal story shared when her parents received the 2023 Rick Wiedemer Guiding Light Award at the 2023 Goombay Bash, the annual fundraiser of The H Foundation, which was held recently at Navy Pier in Chicago.
In 2014, Skylar was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. At first, the pediatrician thought she had pneumonia. “She was having such a hard time breathing when they discovered a massive orange-sized tumor on her chest x-ray,” Shelley explained. “It had grown so large it pushed her little heart below the ribcage and left her millimeters to breathe through. The doctors said we were very lucky as she could have passed in her sleep.”
Dirk added, “The doctor said our back is against the wall; we’ll have to do chemotherapy immediately.” After one month of chemotherapy given as emergency treatment, doctors were able to sedate her for a biopsy which resulted in a resection. “Ultimately, we were very fortunate, and it was a successful surgery,” he stated. Since her surgery, Skylar has been cancer-free.
Today, Skylar is nine years old. “She is so smart, and she has so much determination, grit, and resourcefulness,” Shelley commented. “She is super creative and has a natural talent for style and color.” Skylar designs necklaces, and bracelets with real semi-precious gemstones and markets them herself. A custom piece she donated sold for $1,000 during the Goombay Bash auction.
In their acceptance speech at the Goombay Bash, Shelley mentioned their niece Kendal Lividini, who had been diagnosed with ALL Leukemia at four years old. Since there were no FDA-approved drugs for kids, her parents and doctors had no choice but to give her chemotherapy formulated for adults. After three years, Kendall beat leukemia, but 10 years later was diagnosed with AML, a secondary cancer doctors believed to be the direct result of the treatment she had received a decade earlier. Sadly, Kendal passed from that horrible disease. Years later, when Skylar needed treatment, the only option was to give her the exact same toxic medicine that Kendal received.
“Why don’t we have more options to care for our kids?” Shelley asked. “Only four percent of federal funding goes to pediatric cancers. That is why thoughtfully directed, private funding resources are so important to see the change we need. As parents, you never think this can happen to your kid, but it happens more often than you realize. Skylar was very lucky; not all are.”
How to Help
To raise the funds needed to help find cures for pediatric cancer, please visit the Skylar Wald Fundraiser Page.
“Dirk, Shelley, Skylar, and their family epitomize what the guiding light is about,” said John Rot, President of The H Foundation. “What I learned from this family is giving, leadership, how you can influence people, and how true friends can come together can make a difference.”
About the H Foundation
Since its founding in 2001 by Hortons Home Lighting and other LaGrange, Ill.-based businesses, The H Foundation and the Goombay Bash have been celebrated and supported by a sense of community. This grassroots spirit has underscored the message that “Cancer is Personal,” affecting real people — families, friends, neighbors, partners, and patrons. As the event has grown, this definition of community has broadened from LaGrange to Chicagoland to all of Illinois and beyond, driven by the individuals and businesses with direct connections in our day-to-day lives.