Each year, Children’s Cancer Research Fund presents Butterfly Awards to individuals, organizations and teams that have contributed significant time and resources to ending childhood cancer. We are grateful for the passion and commitment shared by this year’s award recipients.
The Dahmen Family
The Dahmen family first shared Griffin’s story with Ewing sarcoma during the 2015 KS95 for Kids Radiothon. Diagnosed at just 8 years old, he endured countless scans and X-rays, 26 weeks of chemotherapy infusions and surgery to remove what started as a baseball-sized tumor from his pelvis. A huge sports lover, Griffin has overcome the ravages of chemotherapy and weakness in his right leg to jump back into playing two of his favorites: baseball and basketball! Despite all that the family has endured, including the stress of living with the uncertainties of childhood cancer, Griffin’s parents, Jill and Kurt, have consistently said “yes” to every opportunity to join our mission. Their passion for raising awareness and support for research shines through everything they do. Jill has shared her family’s story at several events, and both Jill and Kurt have written for the CCRF website, hosted a Time to Fly team and participated in photo and video shoots for various projects.
Bernie exemplifies the best of what Care Partners volunteers bring to the lives of children and families at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital. Since joining Care Partners in 2015, he has selflessly given his time and spirit to serve families on a long-term basis. Bernie first learned about Care Partners when he and his Hubbard Broadcasting colleagues served meals at the Care Partners dinner program. Embodying the Hubbard commitment to children, Bernie always goes above and beyond the necessary steps to ease the difficult journey that families face. His generous heart is a testament to what each of us can do when we cheerfully and unselfishly reach out to others.
Arden Virnig, MD
In just three years, avid cyclist Arden Virnig, MD has biked over 2,700 miles and raised more than $41,000, becoming one of the top participants in Great Cycle Challenge USA. Virnig rides in memory of his daughter, Mary, who passed away from ganglioneuroblastoma in 2010. Each year, he honors Mary in a different way; he has biked with a warrior stick that she held onto during her battle with cancer, and he has used a tandem bicycle, leaving the second seat empty as a reminder of the loss his family endures each day. He has also helped us with news segments and social media posts aimed at bringing more awareness and funding to childhood cancer research. Virnig’s remarkable dedication to his daughter and the cause has undoubtedly helped make Great Cycle Challenge a success.
Longtime supporter Linda Motzko consistently has used her talent and creativity as a photographer to raise nearly $30,000 for childhood cancer research. Since 1999, her family business, Linda’s Photography, has hosted Bunnies & Lambs, a unique springtime fundraiser that benefits CCRF. For every $25 donation to CCRF, customers receive a free photo session that captures children holding bunnies and lambs, providing happy memories to families to cherish for years to come.
David Largaespada, PhD
David Largaespada, PhD, is a nationally recognized authority on mouse genetics, gene modification and cancer genes. As a professor in the Departments of Pediatrics and Genetics, Cell Biology and Development and the associate director for Basic Research in the Masonic Cancer Center, University of Minnesota, his laboratory focuses on understanding the genetic changes within cells that allow them to metastasize or resist cancer treatments. Largaespada has received millions of dollars from the National Institutes of Health and other sources for his research. He has published over 170 scientific articles, cofounded three biotechnology companies and mentored many postdoctoral, graduate and undergraduate students. Largaespada has been the catalyst for driving research success and is a true leader in the field, transforming our understanding of cancer. Most importantly, these amazing discoveries are leading the way for his lab and others to develop new therapies for some of the most difficult-to-treat cancers.
For 12 years, Russ Swansen served on the CCRF board of directors, including a term as board chairperson. His leadership and dedication to advancing research, fueled by the loss of his sister to childhood cancer, has been instrumental to our growth during this time. As an executive with Thrivent Financial, Russ has helped generate hundreds of thousands in revenue through sponsorship support of Dawn of a Dream and Great Cycle Challenge USA, and he has influenced giving through Thrivent employee and member charitable programs. One of his greatest contributions is his ability to connect new donors to the CCRF mission, bringing significant giving and long-term support to the organization.