Two Girls Show Courage and Determination in Fighting Benign Brain Tumors
Thirteen-year-old Riley Callen and 24-year old Sarah Shehadi have both undergone multiple craniotomies to remove benign (non-cancerous) brainstem tumors within the last four years. Coincidentally, both girls are originally from Chatham, N.J., and now live in southern Vermont. When the girls found out about their similarities, they also discovered they had their first and second craniotomies within six months of each other. They decided to join forces and take control over their respective diseases in a positive way.
Riley and Sarah co-founded Be Brave this summer with an initial goal of raising $10,000 for brain tumor awareness and research. After only two months, the organization has raised over $75,000 through their sheer determination and multiple fundraising efforts, including the October 3 Hike-A-Thon and Basket Bonanza at Merck Forest.
Despite their 10-year age difference, the girls have formed an unbreakable bond. None of us know what the future holds, but the future prospect of recurrence has further inspired them. Riley’s tumors were located in her brainstem and Sarah’s were located next to her brainstem. Brainstem tumors are extremely challenging to remove because the brainstem controls all the vital functions of our bodies, such as breathing and heart rate. Often patients who undergo a craniotomy to resect a brainstem tumor are left with permanent neurological damage. Both Riley and Sarah have suffered such damage. The support Be Brave has received from members of the community, friends and family has been astounding. Local businesses donated over $10,000 in merchandise and services for the Merck Forest Hike-A-Thon and Basket Bonanza; Dorset Middle School students sold over $3,000 in raffle ticket sales; the MEMS Field Hockey team raised $2,000 in sponsorship; Chatham, N.J., students raised over $4,000; and Burr and Burton Academy, Long Trail and Dorset Schools invited the girls at their all-school meetings to share their story. If you are interested in donating to support these two young girls and Be Brave, visit their website, bebrave.life. There you will also find a complete list of their sponsors. Monies raised will be split evenly between both Riley and Sarah’s choice research initiatives: Barrow Neurological Foundation for neurosurgery tumor and hemangioma research, and Boston Children’s Hospital for pediatric brain tumor and vascular disease.