Ten years ago, Billy Brennan was admitted to for treatment of a leukemia relapse. On Monday, with the cancer in remission, he returned to the hospital to present the Sunrise Fund with a $1,000 donation on behalf of Mount Sinai High School's student government.
The donation will go towards the Sunrise Fund, which benefits the Stony Brook University Cancer Center. The fund was co-founded by Brennan’s mother, Maureen Brennan, in 1999 in response to her son’s disease. It also specializes in support services for pediatric cancers.
The donation is the result of the school's Sept. 28 powderpuff football fundraiser, which, according to student government advisor Roger Cardo, was its most financially successful yet, raising $4,500. The student government then had to decide what to do with the funds.
For Billy, the decision to recommend the hospital was an easy one. "I've always thought of giving back," he said. "The hospital's done so much to help me and my family. It was the only thought I had when I heard that we had money to give."
Brennan’s history with cancer began at just two years old, a period of his life that he said he doesn’t remember too much about. He received treatment at Stony Brook for two-and-a-half years before the disease went into remission.
At six years old, Brennan had a relapse and returned for treatment. He would eventually travel to Boston for a bone marrow transplant that's kept the disease in remission for nearly a decade.
His father Bill was pleased with his actions. "Of course I'm proud of him, he was sensitive enough to give back," the elder Brennan said. "... When we were having treatment, it was great to see people who made it through. It was uplifting. Now we can do that for others."
The donation to the Sunrise Fund isn’t the only portion of the money to benefit cancer sufferers. Cardo said that another $1,000 was given to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In years past the student government has donated to other causes such as Building Hope for Long Island last year.
Cardo said there’s still $1,000 that the student government hasn’t decided where to donate yet. The remaining $1,500 will be given to the senior class, an annual tradition that helps defray some of the cost of prom and the senior trip.
For Bill Brennan, donating to the place that’s helped his family is only the icing on the cake. "To see [Billy] here ten years later healthy, that's the best Christmas present I could ever get."
Editor's note: This article has been corrected to reflect the proper name of the charity, the Sunrise Fund.