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Smashing Walnuts Presents First $100,000 Grant

Posted Aug 26, 2014

The Smashing Walnuts Foundation -- which strives to find a cure for childhood brain cancer -- presented its first grant Tuesday, with the assistance of the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation.

Ten months after the passing of Gabriella Miller, a 9 year old who was diagnosed with a walnut-sized, inoperable brain tumor, the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation on Tuesday hosted a $100,000 grant presentation on behalf of the Smashing Walnuts Foundation.

Smashing Walnuts Foundation, created to continue raising awareness of and funds for finding a cure for childhood brain cancer, presented the grant to Dr. Javad Nazarian of Children’s National Health System (CNHS) at Redskins Park in Loudon County, Va.

Ellen Miller, Gabriella's mother, said that her daughter wanted Smashing Walnuts Foundation’s first grant to be in honor of her friend who also lost his life to brain cancer.

“On that very happy day that we were starting our foundation, we got the news that a young friend of ours, Gavin Rupp, that Gabriella had met when she was in radiation therapy, that very day that we started Smashing Walnuts, he had died from his brain cancer,” Miller said. “The Rupps are actually here today, and as we had left signing the contract to start the foundation, Gabriella had said to me, ‘Mom, I want our very first grant to be made in Gavin’s honor.’

“So we are gathered here today not only to honor Gabriella but also to honor Gavin as well.”

Jane Rodgers, executive director of the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation, said that the Redskins were glad to host such a powerful moment Tuesday afternoon.

In December, the WRCF hosted a Redskins Chalk Talk, with proceeds benefitting Smashing Walnuts, in which quarterback Robert Griffin III, running back Alfred Morris, wide receiver Pierre Garçon and outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan spoke about facing adversity.

The event, Rodgers said, raised more than $30,000.

“We met and discussed opportunities of how the Redskins can come together with the Smashing Walnuts Foundation to create an opportunity for a platform,” Rodgers said. “I came back to the team and suggested that we do something together, and I am proud to say that the Redskins were all in."

Nassarian said that the grant will provide doctors avenues to finding a cure to a cancer -- a disease that takes the lives of too many too early -- and help add to the others already progressing towards a solution.

“Almost 100 percent of children diagnosed with this tumor die within a few months of diagnosis,” he said. “There has been very little research done on this type of tumor, and what we are witnessing here is that the families have come to support the research and the children have come forward to also donate their tumors for us.

“Both of these have been missing before, and that is why the research is not being done.”

Nassarian said that he hopes the grant will provide doctors with a better understanding of how the tumor forms and spreads.

“We know zero about this tumor,” he said. “We want to know why, and how this tumor spreads throughout the brain and when we can stop it and what is the molecular function of it that makes it so lethal and so different that makes it from other types of tumors including adult tumors. ... So there are incremental steps that we are hoping that will shed light into our understanding of these tumors and other pediatric brain tumors.”

Rodgers said that the WRCF will continue working with Smashing Walnuts to help find ways to provide a platform to showcase its extremely worthwhile cause.

"Everyone in this building is behind this important cause of finding a cure for childhood cancer and childhood brain cancer, specifically,” she said. 

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