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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (CAP) - New figures released by St. Jude Children's Research Hospital detail alarming concerns regarding the pediatric facility's care for and research into various types of cancer among children. According to the fiscal documents, funding is at a 20-year low and will likely mean cutting many research programs and care options in the coming year.
The hospital obtains a huge portion of its annual funding from the millions of dollars pledged through its Math-a-Thon fundraiser that takes place in thousands of elementary schools around the nation. Each year, typically during spring break, schoolchildren tackle a booklet of math problems and earn donations based on the total number of problems they complete.
"The system was fairly flawed to begin with and the hospital had to know that it would eventually come back around to bite them in the collective bums," said CAP News Education Specialist Rob Stone. "Pinning some poor kid's cancer hopes on what has historically been this country's weakest subject has to be the worst thought-out plan ever."
Indeed, statistics show a direct correlation between cancer survival rates among school-aged children and standardized test scores in those same age groups. As Americans have struggled in areas like math and science and seen cancer patients "drop like flies," Asian nations like China and Japan have watched cancer survival rates go through the roof.
However, pundits warn that it would be folly to pin the failure of the Math-a-Thon program on any singular reason, noting that the competition for charity dollars will ultimately leave some empty-handed.
"I told my neighbor that just a few dollars could help a little boy or girl live for even a couple more days," said one Knoxville, Tenn. fifth grader. "But he had already bought Girl Scout cookies and donated to help the football team buy new uniforms. He said maybe next year."
Many parents say they also struggle with the timing of the fundraiser, remarking that it's tough to get children to willingly do homework during the school year, let alone voluntarily complete math word problems during vacation. Experts say children in the lower grades especially are too young to understand that if they can't differentiate between the hundreds column and the tens column, someone their age will likely die.
"We've tried to personalize the cancer-stricken children as much as possible," said St. Jude spokesperson Devin Mahoney. "We've made sure to only highlight the really adorable ones and to give them cute cancer-stricken names like Billy and Susie. How can anyone not want to save these kids?"
Mahoney said St. Jude officials acknowledge that changes in the Math-a-Thon program may be necessary to ensure the hospital can provide at least some scintilla of hope to parents who opt to send their children to the facility for cancer treatment. One of the options being considered is a Video Game-a-Thon that some say could make millions more than the best year the Math-a-Thon ever had.
"We certainly hate to be sell-outs," said Mahoney. "But I guess if we have to choose between supporting the lost cause that is the American education system or trying to save the lives of future working class stiffs, we should probably just default to whatever the board of directors thinks makes us look best."
The Video Game-a-Thon is expected to make its debut next year.
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