WAC Lighting co-CEOs Dirk and Shelley Wald are asking the lighting and design community to support the Skylar Wald Let’s Beat Cancer Fundraiser, created by their 9-year-old daughter to help The H Foundation support cancer research, announced in an Aug. 1 WAC Lighting press release. Skylar Wald survived a battle with cancer after her diagnosis at 3 months old and now wants to help other children.
For many years, WAC and other lighting businesses have supported The H Foundation’s efforts in leading the way to a world without cancer and supporting basic science cancer research on behalf of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University, a top cancer center in the country. Skylar was motivated to start the fundraiser when her personal story was shared at the 2023 Goombay Bash, The H Foundation’s annual fundraiser, where Dirk and Shelley received the 2023 Rick Wiedemer Guiding Light Award.
In 2014, Skylar was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. At first, the pediatrician thought she had pneumonia. “She was having such a hard time breathing when they discovered a massive orange-sized tumor on her chest x-ray,” Shelley Wald explained. “It had grown so large it pushed her little heart below the ribcage and left her millimeters to breathe through. The doctors said we were very lucky as she could have passed in her sleep.”
"The doctor said our back is against the wall; we’ll have to do chemotherapy immediately,” Dirk Wald said. After a month of chemotherapy given as emergency treatment, doctors were able to sedate her for a biopsy, which resulted in a resection. “Ultimately, we were very fortunate, and it was a successful surgery,” Dirk said, and Skylar has been cancer-free since then.
Today, the 9-year-old “is so smart, and she has so much determination, grit, and resourcefulness,” Shelley said. “She is super creative and has a natural talent for style and color.” Skylar designs necklaces and bracelets with real semi-precious gemstones and markets them. A custom piece she donated sold for $1,000 during the Goombay Bash auction.
During the Walds’ acceptance speech, Shelley spoke about their niece Kendal Lividini who was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at 4 years old. Since no FDA-approved drugs for kids existed, her parents and doctors had to give her chemotherapy formulated for adults for three years. Kendal beat that leukemia but was diagnosed with AML after a decade of being cancer-free. Sadly, she passed away at the age of 17. Years later when Skylar needed treatment, the only option was to give her the same medicine Kendal received.
“Why don’t we have more options to care for our kids?” Shelley asked. “Because only 4% of federal funding goes to pediatric cancers. That is why thoughtfully directed, private funding resources are so important to seeing the change we need. As parents, you never think this can happen to your kid, but it happens more often than you realize. Skylar was very lucky; not all are.”
How to support the fundraiser
Visit the Skylar Wald Fundraiser Page to learn more about the Wald’s story and to donate to this effort to raise funding for pediatric cancer research. At the time of publication, the fundraiser had a goal of $20,000.
“Dirk, Shelley, Skylar, and their family epitomize what the guiding light is about,” said John Rot, president of The H Foundation. “What I learned from this family is giving, leadership, how you can influence people, and how true friends can come together can make a difference.”