Family Focused

This nonprofit puts the spotlight on children of cancer patients.

he l7-foot fishing and pleasure boat on display at a memorial service for John L. Champion spoke volumes about the man, who was so well-loved

that friends decided to launch a Howard County nonprofit in his name.

The Highland resident's prized Boston Whaler served as a testament to his ability to talk shop with colleagues about his complex work on satellite devices, yet just as easily discuss boats over a beer with a new acquaintance.

Two devoted friends refused to let Champion's abiding interest in people from all walks of life and his deep love of family go uncelebrated after his untimely death at age 46, following a l0-month battle with lymphoma. Mere months after the March 2014 passing of the popular and respected scientist at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab, Doug Silverstein and Tim Finkelston hatched a plan to form Champions Against Cancer, and the all-volunteer organization officially became a nonprofit in February 2015.

The foundation focuses on re-establishing a sense of normalcy for children affected by their parents' cancer. The group raises funds and provides logistical and emotional support to keep their day-to-day lives on an even keel as much as possible.

"When someone becomes ill with cancer, everyone is focused on their treatment - and rightfully so," says Finkelston, a Clarksville resident who was Champion's closest friend. "But kids are often left to deal with it in their own way without any guidance or counseling."


For Howard Magazine

Direct-assistance awards can be used to pay for anything that eases the burden on kids - such as music lessons or sports camps - but also for their parent or guardian's medical bills. The awards are available to applicants ages 21 or younger who have a parent or guardian living or working in Howard County with a current or previous cancer diagnosis.

College scholarships of$1,000 are also handed out, up to two per Howard County high school. A maximum of $2,500 is available annually per family.

"The name Champions Against Cancer just popped into my head because it was what we were going to be," says Silverstein, the foundation president.

"We're not eradicating cancer," says the Columbia resident and pediatric kidney specialist. "What connects us is John, and we're honoring his memory by helping families in the community. His kids meant everything to him."

Since its inception, the organization has taken in $125,000 and has doled out just over half of that amount on monetary awards and fundraising expenses for events, such as its second annual Golf Classic, scheduled for Sept. 19 at Hobbits Glen.

In May, $11,000 worth of college scholarships was distributed. One of those scholarships went to Long Reach High School graduate Af Gilbert.

His mother, Robin Gilbert, fought breast cancer twice a dozen years ago. The Elkridge resident says her illness deeply affected her son.

AJ, who plans to attend the Univer

sity of Maryland, College Park, chose to write an essay

Photo by Jen Rynda. Tim Finkelston, left, and Doug Silverstein formed the nonprofit Champions Against Cancer to honor the life of John Champion, the late husband of Amy Champion, middle. The organization aims to help children of cancer patients recovery a sense of normalcy.

Howard County Magazine Article.Aug-Sept
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