Harry and Robin Koenigs’ son Jake was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma when he was barely five years old. Jake never complained about his frequent hospital stays and made the best of it playing video games with his sister Emily and never tiring of his favorite TV show, Sponge Bob Square Pants. He could often be seen wearing his Jeff Gordon hat, Jake’s favorite NASCAR driver. Jake showed incredible strength throughout his cancer journey, inspiring others around him to do whatever they could to help others children with cancer. After a heroic fight, Jake passed away in December of 2006, just one month before his 9th birthday.
Harry and Robin wanted to take Jake’s strength and use it to Go MOM on Cancer, so that other families didn’t have to go through the same hardship that they did. They were determined to bring hope to the many families whose lives have been affected by childhood cancer. “When we realized that Jake wasn’t going to survive, we wanted to find a way to give back to an organization that was working towards finding a cure,” says Harry. “We felt that CureSearch was that organization.”
They knew that more research was needed to ensure that other children with rhabdomyosarcoma received the best care possible. The Koenigs also wanted to raise awareness for children’s cancer, and Harry’s employer, Kiewit, turned their annual employee golf outing for many years into a fundraising event called JakeFest. Since 2007, JakeFest has grown to include golf outings across the country, including Chicago, Kansas City, New York/New Jersey, and Homer City, PA. Harry and Robin try to attend every JakeFest, telling attendees about their cancer journey, and reminding everyone why continued funding is so important.
This year, Kiewit and the Koenigs are funding Jason Yustein, MD, PhD from Baylor College of Medicine, who is studying gene pathways responsible for metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma. His research will hopefully lead to new therapies. Dr. Yustein is part of CureSearch’s Young Investigator Program, which has identified 12 Young Investigators who have the potential to make noteworthy advancements in children cancer research. The Koenigs believe, like CureSearch, that young investigators and innovative research are the future of children’s cancer treatment.
Kiewit and CureSearch have worked with the Koenigs to Go MOM on Cancer by raising more than $1 million since the beginning of JakeFest. Kiewit continues to support CureSearch, and not just through JakeFest – Kiewit’s Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program is up for a national award, where, if this project wins, $10,000 will be donated to CureSearch. To vote for Kiewit’s MO: Safe and Sound Bridge Improvement Program, visit: http://nominate.americastransportationawards.org/voting.aspx. The Koenigs hope that one day, the money that they have helped raise, will help guarantee a cure for children with cancer.