Children’s cancer may not be cured with chocolate peanut butter cake—but it’s a start.
The Double Chocolate Hill, a tower of sugary satisfaction concocted by Iron Hill Brewery & Restaurant, generates thousands of dollars each year for CureSearch, a national nonprofit whose mission is to fund children’s cancer research.
“There are 13,500 children who are diagnosed with cancer in the United States every year,” says John L. Lehr, CEO of CureSearch. “We raise money to support children’s cancer research, and we do that by supporting 175 hospitals in the U.S. that are conducting clinical trials to find new and better treatments for children with cancer.”
These 175 hospitals comprise the Children’s Oncology Group, the world’s largest cooperative children’s cancer research body.
One of the participating hospitals in the Children’s Oncology Group is Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, where a woman named Maureen Edelson worked as a pediatric oncologist.
Iron Hill Restaurant & Brewery operates nine restaurants across the Northeast. When the restaurant turned 10 in 2004, co-founders Kevin Finn, Mark Edelson, and Kevin Davies sat down to discuss charitable donations.
“Mark, Kevin [Davies], and I wanted always to have community involvement,” Kevin Finn says. “We wanted to develop a signature dessert where we would donate the sales to some charity. For the most part, we talked about staying away from bigger, national charities.”
And as they strategized, mulling over local organizations and nonprofits, Edelson’s wife Maureen offered advice to the conversation.
“Mark’s wife is a pediatric oncologist, and she worked at Alfred I. duPont Hospital,” Finn says. “She made a big pitch for us to get involved with CureSearch.”
Her persuasion did the trick.
Finn, Edelson, and Davies hit the kitchens of Iron Hill and reappeared with the Double Chocolate Hill, a moist chocolate cake with a warm peanut butter center, covered in a creamy glaze.
Of every Double Chocolate Hill purchased, 75 cents is donated to CureSearch. Since 2004, Iron Hill has donated $145,000 to the children’s cancer foundation.
Lehr describes CureSearch as a grassroots fundraising organization. Three key events—regional CureSearch Walks, an Ultimate Hike, and a kickball fundraiser called Kick-It—generate the profits CureSearch delegates to clinical research.
Beyond these events, Lehr says CureSearch relies on corporate partners, such as Iron Hill, that raise money on behalf of the organization.
This year, at the CureSearch walk in Wilmington, Delaware, Finn presented a check to CureSearch for nearly $16,000.
“I’ve been to a lot of events like that, races or walks to raise money, but this one—I’ve never seen that kind of enthusiasm,” Finn says.
The money finances research-based, data-driven trials.
“I would say that the breakthroughs that have taken place in survivorship rates in the past 20 or 30 years have been a result of these clinical trials,” Lehr says.
In June, for example, a clinical trial revealed that increasing doses of the chemotherapy medication methotrexate in patients with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) would result in fewer relapse rates in the central nervous system.
While methotrexate had been used in ALL patients for more than 50 years, this clinical trial increased the dose by 50 times the starting amount, increasing the chances that methrotrexate infiltrates the central nervous system.
“When there are statistically significant results, the standard of care, or the best way to treat patients, will change,” Lehr says. “And the good thing about that is, the change takes place across all the hospitals in the country.”
The ALL study has now increased the survival rates of all leukemia patients going forward.
Lehr says he is grateful of Iron Hill’s partnership and its distinctive approach to fundraising for CureSearch.
“Whenever you go out to dinner, the waiter or waitress will say, ‘Do you want dessert?’” Lehr says. “Most people will say no, because they feel guilty about getting dessert. But having a dessert item on the menu that benefit’s children’s charities, or charity in particular, it’s a great motivator. People will then order that item.
“It’s win-win for the restaurant, win-win for the charity, and then it’s also win-win for the people that want dessert but feel guilty ordering it.”
Finn says CureSearch is an organization he is proud to partner with.
“We’ve done fundraisers for the Red Cross, for hurricane relief, and so on,” he says, “but this is a little bit different, a little more special, in my mind.”
By Sonya Chudgar