West Coast meets East Coast: Dr. Wechsler-Reya makes special trip to thank students

Written by 
Monica May
Willam's Warriors and Robert Wechsler-Reya

In the summer of 2015, 5-year-old William Schultz began to experience odd and increasingly worrying symptoms, including frequent vomiting. After two emergency-room visits, doctors ushered his parents, Jim and Margaret Schultz, into a small office and gave an unimaginable diagnosis: William had a brain tumor, ultimately revealed as medulloblastoma—the most common malignant childhood brain cancer. Standard treatment proved ineffective. The tumor returned, and William later died due to treatment complications.

William’s parents quickly channeled their pain into action. Mr. and Mrs. Schultz launched William’s Warriors, a foundation that supports art therapy for all children battling cancer, both in and out of the hospital, and raises funds in support of a cure for pediatric brain cancer—the deadliest form of childhood cancer. Even with aggressive treatment, many children don’t survive, and those who do often suffer severe long-term side effects from the therapy. Half of the foundation’s fundraising goes to William’s Superhero Fund, which supports the work of Robert Wechsler-Reya, Ph.D., professor and director of the Tumor Initiation and Maintenance Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys, and program director of the Clayes Center for Neuro-Oncology and Genomics at the Rady Children’s Institute for Genomic Medicine.

On May 31, 2019, Wechsler-Reya traveled to New York’s Bay Shore High School, where Mrs. Schultz teaches art—and many teachers and students volunteer with the foundation—to provide an update on his research. As part of his goal to develop safer and more effective treatments for pediatric brain cancer, his lab explores potential personalized treatments based on a child’s specific tumor type, nanotechnology approaches that improve drug delivery and immunotherapy to train patients’ immune systems to eradicate the cancer.

The Bay Shore Girls Basketball Team and Brother Sister Organization presented Wechsler-Reya with a donation of funds they raised in support of his research.The visit, organized by William’s Warriors volunteer and New York State Master Science Teacher Erin Garland, provided students with a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the drug development process and how their funds directly impact medical research. During the trip, Wechsler-Reya addressed an assembly of students and teachers, attended a student-centered science symposium, met one-on-one with science students and participated in a question-and-answer session with STEAM teachers. Following his address, the Bay Shore Girls Basketball Team and Brother Sister Organization, presented Wechsler-Reya with a donation of funds they raised in support of his research.

“From the bottom of our hearts, we sincerely thank Dr. Wechsler-Reya for taking time out of his very busy schedule to make this visit. But, more importantly, we are grateful for his unwavering commitment to finding a cure for childhood brain cancer,” says Mrs. Schultz. “While William’s life couldn’t be saved, knowing that researchers are working to find a treatment that might help children like him means the absolute world to us.” 

Read William’s story

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