This November, our fundraising campaign for the Pediatric Cancer Research Foundation (PCRF), a local organization close to our hearts, is inspired by former Babyletto Sales Managers Josh and Heather Johnston and their experience with pediatric cancer.
Since 1982, PCRF has funded research grants for scientific institutions across the country to develop cures for pediatric cancer and treatment regimens with fewer toxic side effects. Since losing their baby Asher to cancer, Josh and Heather have become passionate partners of PCRF. They’ve shared Asher’s story and have hosted local events such as a community fun run to honor his memory and raise awareness for the glaring lack of funding dedicated to pediatric cancer despite the high and rising incidence of cancer among children.
Josh, Heather, and Charlie (center) pictured with Teddy and his daughter Sophie (far right) at Asher’s Bash & Rainbow Dash, the community fun run they hosted in memory of baby Asher.
Our CEO, Teddy Fong, has been best friends with Josh since college and sat down with him to discuss his family’s advocacy of PCRF, the responsibility that baby companies bear in changing outcomes for future generations, and the reasons that pediatric cancer is so underfunded.
In memory of baby Asher and so many other children, you can help us make a difference! We’ve pledged $30,000 of support to PCRF, but we hope to DOUBLE our impact and reach our overall $60,000 donation goal with your help.
Consider donating directly to PCRF here, or if you happen to be shopping for nursery furniture, you will be able to round up your purchase at checkout.
A Trip Down Memory Lane
Teddy: How do you remember your time on the Sales Team at Babyletto?
Josh: Being a part of the Babyletto family was a time of excitement, opportunity, challenge, fun, and growth. You and I often joke that despite the fact that we talked to and saw each other every single day for 14 years, we have remained incredible friends! Early in our careers, we were able to create a vision and then execute it — tackling complex problems such as launching new brands, opening new territories, designing new products, etc. To be able to do that with your best friend is such a unique opportunity and was the foundation for accelerated growth as a businessperson and as an individual. I not only learned professional skills, but I also met my wife, started a family, and truly learned to combine my personal values and convictions with my professional vision and goals.
Teddy: Since Babyletto is deeply committed to social activism and to working with retailers with similar values, did that at all influence your advocacy and mission?
Josh: Too often today I think that business leaders feel they have to separate who they are personally, and their personal values, from their professional selves. You and Daniel [Teddy’s father and former CEO] have taught us that not only is this not true, but you can build a successful business in part because of your personal convictions and how you integrate them with your work. As I have built my own businesses since, I have remembered this lesson often and tried to act it out in my own life — speaking frequently and early about who I am, who we are, why it defines us, and how it has led to the success we’ve had.
PCRF’s Mission to Challenge the Status Quo
Teddy: What initiatives or resources is PCRF developing that you wish you had access to during your difficult time?
Josh: Unfortunately, pediatric cancer is still not a main focus of cancer eradication efforts in this country. Only 4% of total cancer research funding is aimed at pediatric cancers. The consequence of this is that there are only 6 drugs approved to treat pediatric cancer with no new drugs being developed in the last 30 years. That means that the drugs and chance of survival for Asher were the same as children diagnosed with this disease three decades ago. This is unacceptable. PCRF’s mission is to change this. PCRF has relationships with the researchers and organizations that focus on these diseases and helps direct critical funding to develop more effective drugs, to identify more effective treatments, and to ensure that our children don’t have to suffer because of a lack of awareness and attention. Our children deserve this from us.
Teddy: Why is pediatric cancer research so underfunded? Why is there so little awareness about childhood cancer?
Josh: Unfortunately, cancer research still operates under the same rules as any other business. You see more effort and investment in areas that offer a higher financial return. Because pediatric cancer affects a relatively small number of individuals compared with other cancers, it doesn’t get as much attention or funding. That being said, there are still 47 children diagnosed with cancer every single day in the US alone and it is the number one cause of death by disease for children in the US. The average age of a child diagnosed with cancer is 6 years old and the average life years lost is 71. These are our future leaders, inventors, doctors, engineers...Not to mention husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers. Think of the loss to society from the lives that are never lived, the families that never come to be. The toll on the families is unbearable, but the loss to society is astounding!
A Call to Action
Teddy: What is something you wish you could tell people about your experience? What action do you hope will come of your own activism?
Josh: We can make a difference. All you have to do is look at other areas of cancer to see the impact and progress that awareness and research can make. Take breast cancer, for example. Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide and is estimated to take the life of over 43,000 people in the US alone in 2022. For this reason, breast cancer has tremendous awareness and financial investment focused on it. The result of this focus has been an increase in survival rate from ~75% in 1975 to 99% today when the disease is caught early and still localized. Increased awareness, and the following investment, has led to better processes for early diagnosis and more effective treatments that have made dramatic progress toward treating and eliminating this disease. With only 4% of cancer research funding, pediatric cancers have enjoyed none of the progress that other cancers have experienced in the past three decades.
Teddy: What is something you'd like to tell people about your experience, whether it's fellow parents or businesses? What action do you hope will come of your activism?
Josh: It is easy to be ignorant to all of this unless you are directly impacted; we certainly were. It wasn’t until we were forced into this world that we started to learn the true scope of this issue. That is a problem. I would rather fight so that my kid doesn’t have to die, than to fight so my that kid didn’t have to die in vain. Our family no longer has that luxury, but many people do. What an incredible opportunity for the businesses in this industry to raise awareness by taking a stand, and sharing that position and why, with their customers, who are parents. Again, if we won’t fight for our children, who will?