Our History


In 1991, two mothers faced every parent’s worst nightmare. Their children were diagnosed with cancer. Melissa Helms and Risa Tramel met at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa while their infant daughters were undergoing cancer treatments. Through research advancements, both of their daughters survived and are now healthy young adults. However, through this experience, Melissa and Risa were inspired to continue fighting this disease.

Together, they founded the Pediatric Cancer Foundation, a non-profit organization whose mission is to fund research that will lead to the elimination of childhood cancer worldwide.

Over the past 23 years, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation has donated more than $6 million to researchers. For the first 15 years, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation funded seed grants at St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital and Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, All Children’s Research Institute in St. Petersburg, the University of Florida in Gainesville, and the University of Miami School of Medicine.

In 2005, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation formed the Sunshine Project, an innovative collaboration with one goal: to bring together the nation’s top doctors and researchers to fast-track new treatments and increase the survival rate for children battling cancer.

Through the establishment of the Sunshine Project, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation has developed a business model that capitalizes on the strengths of researchers from all different fields of science and streamlined the process to accelerate the development of new treatments.

Best of all, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation has proven that this collaborative model works. Since 2005, we have funded four Phase 1 Clinical Trials. New compounds have been, and continue to be, tested and hold great promise for children who have not experienced positive results under the standard treatment protocol.

In 2016, the Pediatric Cancer Foundation re-branded and updated its name to celebrate its 25th year of service. Click here to learn more.