Torrey Pines High School junior helps raise $125K for Henry’s Fund
By Megan McVay
InternEvery time Torrey Pines High School junior Harrison Schneider walked down the street to babysit Henry Reif, 9, he knew he could expect several things: Nerf gun wars, hide and seek games and animated movies. That much was certain. What Schneider didn’t see coming was the heartwarming relationship that Henry would soon lead him to – and the fundraising crusade that would help Henry battle a life-threatening illness.
In March, Henry’s mother, Tracy Spiegel, took him to Rady Children’s Hospital to get his tonsils removed. The procedure went flawlessly and as they left the doctor gave him the standard medical warnings and reminded him to eat a lot of ice cream.
But it wasn’t until six days later that Henry began to cough up excessive amounts of blood. He was rushed to the Emergency Room, and was immediately taken into surgery to stop the bleeding. After the surgery, he was brought to Peckham Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Rady Children’s Hospital, where care is provided by the Hematology/Oncology Division of Rady Children’s Specialists of San Diego. He spent the night at the hospital, undergoing several blood tests. Within three weeks, Henry was diagnosed with type B hemophilia.
Lacking the ninth blood-clotting factor, hemophilia hinders Henry’s body’s ability to clot blood properly, making every injury a life-threatening emergency in which he must be rushed to the hospital to be monitored for internal bleeding. Because only 3,300 people have type B hemophilia in America, the factor medicine is not supplied at most hospitals and Henry’s mom, Tracy Spiegel, must keep at least three doses on hand, each costing $5,000.
“Even when I’m not babysitting Henry, we still hang out all the time. Our families are closely intertwined. Our fathers work together and our mothers workout together,” said Harrison. “Since his diagnosis, we have still been able to pass the football around and go swimming. But it’s sad to know he won’t be able to play flag football or lacrosse like he planned on doing before.”
By April, Spiegel had begun crafting the basis of what would soon become “Henry’s Fund,” a Miracle Maker Fund affiliated with Rady Children’s Hospital and dedicated to finding a cure to the disorder and aiding families who cannot afford the factor medication. In need of a partner, Spiegel approached neighbor, babysitter and trusted family friend, Harrison, and asked him if he would like to get involved with the foundation. Without hesitation, Harrison accepted.
“Since it’s not as prevalent of a disorder as others, it’s the job of the family and friends of the person to come together and do something, instead of waiting for some corporate company to step in,” Harrison said.
This summer, when Harrison wasn’t at crew practice or SAT training, he was going door-to-door in his neighborhood, The Bridges in Rancho Santa Fe, asking for donations. He also worked with Spiegel to develop a tagline, logo and fundraising plan.
Henry, who Harrison describes as mature beyond his years, has also played a key role in the fund and its success. During a community meeting at the Children’s School in La Jolla, Henry got up in front of his entire school, explained his condition and asked students to join his cause. Additionally, he came up with the idea of donating video games carts and specially-designed Wii programs to the Peckham Center at Rady Children’s Hospital.
Although Henry’s Fund only officially began in June, they have already raised $125,000. The boundless support they have received from family and friends has confirmed their tag line: “Caring is in our blood.”
Together, Henry and Harrison are currently working on their biggest fundraiser yet: The Shamu and You Family Walk at SeaWorld for Rady Children’s Hospital on Oct. 1. Recently, Henry and Harrison have been recruiting friends to walk in the event and asking neighbors to sponsor them. So far, Henry’s Fund has raised $10,587 solely for the event. The 68-member team has its own name too: Henry’s Hemophiliacs.
Eventually, Spiegel and Harrison would like to be able to hire a fellow — a medical doctor who will be sponsored to study hemophilia. Henry’s Fund is vacillating between two subjects of potential study. The fellow’s research will either be focused on performing stem cell therapy to find a cure or making the doses of factor more affordable by finding a way to make injections last for five days, rather than only one.
Although this goal still awaits in the future, Harrison and Henry are keeping busy with the many current plans they have together.
“One thing we will be doing is speaking together at the Rady Children’s Hospital gala fundraiser. We will be speaking about all the fun times we’ve had together and also what Henry has gone through. I know it will be a good experience and hopefully it will bring in some donations,” Harrison said.
To donate, find out more or participate in the Shamu and You Family Walk, email Harrison at Harrisonschneider27@gmail.com.