Earlier this month, almost a year and a half after 10-year-old childhood-cancer research advocate Gabriella Miller of Leesburg died of an inoperable brain tumor, hundreds of her friends, fans and supporters gathered Saturday at the Ritz Carlton in Tysons Corner to help honor her final request: finding a cure for pediatric cancer.
The second annual Smashing Walnuts Foundation “Cracking the Cure” Gala, a fundraiser hosted by the cancer research foundation that Gabriella created with her family, drew more than 450 — including political officials, cancer researchers, Washington Redskins players and family members of children fighting cancer. I was honored to be able to attend and support this great cause.
During Gabriella’s 11-month battle with a brain tumor, she became a widely celebrated cancer awareness and research advocate and a passionate public speaker, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Make-A-Wish nonprofit organization and helping her family to launch her foundation. Weeks before she died in October 2013, she urged her loved ones and lawmakers to continue her efforts after she was gone.
“If I lose my battle, then I want other people to carry on with the war,” the fifth-grader said during an interview with documentary filmmakers. “They’re going to win this war.”
Initial tallies showed Smashing Walnuts raised more than $200,000 during the gala, which included a silent and live auction, a speech from U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and a performance from J. Mark McVey, a Broadway singer from the performance of “Les Miserables.” Gabriella was enamored with all things Paris, taking a trip the City of Lights in her final year.
The gala also honored Virginia Democratic Sens. Timothy M. Kaine and Mark Warner, who were among the supporters of a federal pediatric medical research bill named in Gabriella’s honor. The Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act was passed by Congress in 2013 with bipartisan support and was signed into law by President Obama in April 2014.
Visit Smashing Walnuts to learn more about Gabriella’s story, facts about pediatric brain cancer and how you can get involved.
Also coming up on May 9th, the 3rd Annual Walkin’ with Gabriella Walk-A-Thon will be held from 9:00 am – 1:00 pm at Heritage High School in Leesburg, VA. This will be a family friendly FUN event with music, face painting, a moonbounce and more.