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The Faris Foundation

Bringing brighter days and better treatments to children with cancer

Inspired, guided, and informed by the shimmering light of Faris D. Virani, we hold our work to his same high standards: to be bold, original, and transformative in all that we do.

Our work is focused in three key areas: childhood cancer research, creative arts programs at children’s cancer centers, and public engagement and awareness around childhood cancer.

From the desk of Faris D. Virani, Chief Angel Officer

The Faris Foundation

February 1, 2020

Letter from Asha, Mommy to Chief Angel Officer, Faris D. Virani

To our glowing community,

We started The Faris Foundation exactly one year ago, on February 1, 2019, in honor of Faris’ 13th birthday. The foundation is an offering; a gift to the world from Faris’ compassionate heart and magical way of being. Though the foundation is only one year old, I am convinced through the amazing progress you will read in this first-year report, that when heaven and earth work together, transformative and beautiful things happen. You are part of that magic. Your confidence and support in our work has made this all possible; and for that, we are deeply grateful to each one of you.

Faris questioned a lot of things: “does God climb up on a ladder each spring to paint the leaves green?” or “why isn‘t there enough clean water if the earth is made mainly of water?” along with too many other challenging queries that silenced and humbled me.

But Faris D. never questioned his diagnosis or why he had cancer. He lived masterfully, savoring and celebrating each moment with his shimmering Light leading the way. He left us with words that embolden and define the mission and vision of the foundation. This is what makes the foundation so very unique, and our work so sacred. A nine year-old sweet boy left his “heartprint” for us to follow.

The foundation that bears his name continues to be led by that shimmering Light. We have clarity and we have a vision from our Chief Angel Officer. With your continued support and prayers, we will bring brighter days and better treatments to children with cancer.

I know Faris D. would be very proud of all you have done this year. We still have much to do. Please walk beside us and share your light on our journey.

Going with the FLOW,
Asha

We are emboldened by the words of Faris D. Virani

“Mommy, cancer is not hard.”

Childhood Cancer Research

If a child can say that, then the cure for cancer can’t be hard. It requires conviction. It requires a community rallying around it. And it requires deep, transformative investment.

7 research collaborations

at the FDV Ewing Sarcoma Center in 2019

“Art is my life, writing is in my blood.”

Art Is My Life

Art was a powerful force of hope and healing in Faris’ cancer journey. He immersed himself in the creative process, and in it, found pure delight and joy. Understanding the power of creative expression, we seek to bring this same joy to children and their families in the hospital through our unique art programs.

260 works of art created

by children at our Art Parties in 2019

“When I grow up, I will Let There Be GOLD.”

Let There Be GOLD

September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, represented by the gold ribbon. Faris was always bewildered why more people did not recognize and honor this symbolic color and its cause. Let There Be GOLD is our public engagement campaign – and our work to fulfill the wish of an angel.

112,000 people activated

as advocates and donors

The Faris Foundation 2019 in Review

Childhood Cancer Research

In recent years, we have seen progress in the understanding, treatment, and outcome of the more frequently occurring childhood cancers. These improvements have been made possible through unprecedented scientific discoveries achieved through investments in research. However, not all pediatric cancers have benefitted from these advances, and in many cases, treatments are decades-old with survival rates remaining extremely low. We prioritize research in pediatric cancers that are underfunded and overlooked, and where there is a desperate need for research and development of more effective and less toxic therapies and treatments.

Deep and Transformative Investments

To change the trajectory of childhood cancer requires a paradigm shift – and the full commitment of all stakeholders. The current lack of funding in the field means that too often, potentially groundbreaking research projects are stymied, underdeveloped, or never even pursued. We make multi-year grants that enable the best and brightest pediatric cancer researchers and physicians to launch projects, fully engage in their work, and produce results, without needing to spend time securing additional funds during the grant period. Through sustained support, we aim to foster creativity and collaboration – that is, a paradigm shift – that will lead to innovative therapies, new knowledge, and future cures in pediatric cancer.

The Faris Foundation Immunotherapy Scholar Award

A grant of $300,000 over two years, awarded to Dr. Sujith K. Joseph (Baylor College of Medicine, Texas Childrens Cancer Center), for his project “Developing Sarcoma-specific T-cell Platform for Grafting Chimeric Antigen Receptors.”

Research Summary:
Sarcoma is an aggressive childhood cancer affecting bones and soft tissues. Clinical success remains limited for children whose cancer has spread. Immunotherapy uses patient’s own immune cells to fight cancer. We introduce an artificial molecule called chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) on immune cells. The CAR introduced T cells can identify and kill cancer cells in a targeted manner.

CAR T cells have shown benefit to patients in early clinical testing. A clinical trial at our center tests for the safety of this CAR T cells targeting HER2 protein. In this trial, a child with rhabdomyosarcoma, a soft tissue cancer, achieved complete cure. We observed activation of the patient’s own immune system following CAR T cell treatment. Furthermore, we identified various tumor proteins targeted by the patient’s own immune system. These proteins participated in uncontrolled cell growth, cancer spread and cell invasion. Some of these proteins had expression limited to or elevated on cancer cells. We are validating these proteins as sarcoma targets with immune potential. Once validated, we will develop sarcoma-specific T cells for cancer therapy.

The Faris D. Virani Ewing Sarcoma Center

The Faris D. Virani Ewing Sarcoma Center at Texas Children’s Cancer Center (an NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center) was established in 2014 with a little over $1,000 in seed funding from Faris’ personal piggy bank, and is the world’s only comprehensive research center dedicated to Ewing sarcoma. Part of the Solid Tumor Programs at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, the FDV Center is dedicated to advancing the research and treatment of Ewing sarcoma, the second most common bone tumor in children, as well as other sarcomas. A global leader in research and clinical care, the Center also hosts international symposia, an undergraduate internship program, a youth ambassador program, and is home to world’s only round-the-clock access line for anyone affected by Ewing sarcoma.

2019 Highlights at The FDV Center

FDV Center Director Dr. Jason Yustein was selected as one of 10 experts to lead the Children’s Oncology Group New Agents for Ewing Sarcoma Task Force, which published a landmark report in April.

This year saw the creation of a Monthly Sarcoma Research Conference for faculty and trainees from across the Texas Medical Center; led by Dr. Yustein and Dr. Lisa Wang, the conference has already significantly enhanced studies in Ewing sarcoma and galvanized interest in pediatric sarcomas, while also providing a valuable educational opportunity as a forum for feedback and discussion.

Art Is My Life
2019 Activities and impact

Art Is My Life is a program that provides children and young people affected by cancer, and their families, meaningful opportunities for creative expression during their hospital visits and longer-term stay.

In 2020, we look forward to introducing you to the very first Faris Foundation Art Fairy, who will be embedded at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, where we are piloting the program before bringing it to other children’s cancer centers. The Art Fairy is an art therapist who will join us in imagining and executing an expansive vision for the arts in the lives of children and families affected by cancer. Our creative hub at Texas Children’s Cancer Center is on its way, too – this one-of-a-kind studio space is currently under construction.

Our Art Parties provide

the chance for children and adolescents to self-explore, help transform, and shape new realities through their art in a community setting; giving each child a chance to have fun during their trip to the hospital.

– Jennifer Sullivan, Art Therapist

My first time going to an art party was memorable and magical. Seeing the smiling faces as things light up or as glitter is being added is just heartwarming…Being a part of something even for a couple hours that helps kids forget where they are for a second is something everyone should experience.

– Vanessa Marquez, Volunteer
Let There Be GOLD
A Response to Childhood Cancer from The Faris Foundation

Faris D. Virani, during his three year journey with a rare form of bone cancer called Ewing Sarcoma, was always bewildered by why more people didn’t recognize the gold ribbon and September as National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month the way they recognized and rallied around other causes. He asked: “Don’t children matter? Aren’t we important? When I grow up, I will Let There Be GOLD.

Every September, we deepen our commitment to this cause through our public awareness campaign called Let There Be GOLD. We honor every child, family, and angel during the month of September by raising awareness and education around childhood cancer so that our children will have brighter days and better treatments. 

GOLD is our color, September is our month

In September 2019, our “Let There Be GOLD” campaign galvanized the support of over 100,000 individuals across the nation, all rallying around the cause of childhood cancer awareness. The campaign brought to the public consciousness the dire lack of federal funding for childhood cancer research, and the many other deep inequities faced by children with cancer. Together, our communities mobilized to bring brighter days and better treatments to children with cancer.

In addition to GOLD Parades at children’s cancer centers, we also provide unique GOLDEN Moments for affected families within our partner communities, by helping to fulfill the wish of a child with cancer.

Let There Be GOLD is our fundraising platform, and every dollar donated to The Faris Foundation goes directly to programs and research that provide brighter days and better treatments to children with cancer.

Civic Engagement

In honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, The City of Sugar Land recognized The Faris Foundation and issued a proclamation designating September as “Let There Be GOLD” Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

The proclamation was accepted “on behalf of the angels who hover over us, gently telling us to stay brave in your heart, stay steadfast in your soul because through it all, Grace abides.” – Asha Virani, Mommy to Chief Angel Officer Faris D. at The Faris Foundation

Video from the Proclamation Ceremony

Onwards

Our uncompromising vision is to be bold and transformative in bringing brighter days and better treatments to children with cancer. This is only possible with the generosity of your spirit and support, we invite you to share your light as we follow the heartprint of a sweet nine year-old.