Harlequin More Than Words Winner Sarah Zematis, A Mission to Do Good
The Harlequin More Than Words program aims to enhance the well-being of women by raising awareness about worthy causes that are of concern to women; providing financial assistance to these important charities; and engaging employees, authors, and readers and the general public in worthy causes and provide opportunities for them to make a difference. This week we will be sharing the stories of this year’s three Harlequin More Than Words winners, who each receive a $15,000 donation to her chosen cause. For more information about the program, please visit www.harlequinmorethanwords.com
Name: Sarah Zematis
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Recipient’s Related Charity: Better treatments for childhood cancer/St. Baldrick’s Foundation
How Sarah inspires others:
The Chicago winter of 2014/15 was especially cold for Sarah Zematis, who lost nine friends that bleak season, eight of them to cancer. Still reeling, Sarah wanted to do something to try to make a difference—help raise money for cancer research.
After learning that St. Baldrick’s Foundation, a nearby charity that funds childhood cancer research, was planning an event a few months later, she thought it was kismet. She had no idea then how right she was.
Just twelve days later Sarah’s two-year-old daughter, Sophia, was diagnosed with a glioneuronal brain tumor.
Sarah and her husband, Scott, felt like they had been thrown into the deep end of a pool, trying to understand what was happening to Sophia and full of questions about her treatments, medications and pediatric cancer care in general. They soon learned that no one in the field held many answers.
Childhood cancers like Sophia’s are woefully underfunded by the National Cancer Institute and underresearched by pharmacology companies. In the past thirty years only three new drugs have been developed for pediatric cancer. Treatments have become outdated. When dealing with these restrictions, families can easily become frustrated.
Sarah and Scott knew the only way to get answers to their questions was through research. And research is only achieved through funding. Thus, Scott and Sarah aligned themselves with St. Baldrick’s, the number one private funder of pediatric cancer research. An intensely fiscally responsible organization, 77% of donations to St. Baldrick’s go straight to funding the most promising research being done in the world.
While Sophie has experienced both ups and downs with her health, Sarah knows how important it is to stay upbeat. “If I stay positive, then our whole family will stay positive and the community will be positive, and that’s the kind of energy that is capable of finally moving things forward.”