PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. — Their goal is to give hope to patients battling a type of brain cancer some feel is too prevalent in St. Lucie County: glioblastoma.
WPTV first reported on the dozens of people who have been diagnosed with the disease over the years. The family of one young man who died of the disease is going the extra mile to make his legacy one of helping others also battling glioblastoma.
Debbie Johnston's son, Lenny Schelin Jr., lost his 17-month battle with glioblastoma at just 33 years old, far younger than the elderly average age for glioblastoma.
She and her family started a foundation in Schelin's honor, raising money through an annual fishing tournament.
In the tournament's first year, they raised $28,000 to give to researchers at the University of Miami, where Lenny was primarily treated.
This year, Johnston said they wanted to give their $40,000 raised from the tournament to local research.
Johnston, along with a small group of close friends and family, presented the Cleveland Clinic Martin Health Foundation with a check Monday to go specifically to glioblastoma research.
Dr. Oszkar Szentirmai, a neurosurgeon, accepted the check.
"I'm just very happy today," he said. "I think lives will be impacted in the future."
He will be intimately involved in the research planned at Cleveland Clinic Florida's new research facility in Tradition, the Florida Research and Innovation Center.
"It's a tremendous boost to our initial effort to study these tumor cells," Szentirmai said.
He knew Schelin, making the donation more personal.
"I had the opportunity to meet with Lenny when he had a seizure," Szentirmai said.
Johnston said she is doing just what Schelin wanted.
"He said, 'I don't want to be forgotten, mom,'" Johnston said. "I said, 'I don't think that will ever happen.' He just made such a mark on people."
Szentirmai said every bit of support helps them inch closer to better treatments and more options for patients
"Hopefully, one day, we may talk about new therapeutic options that may come out of this," Szentirmai said.
"At least give them longevity of life, more than the 17 months like Lenny had," Johnston added.