Go4theGoal aids kids with cancer on their journeys to recovery


Ellie Noh (‘24)

Infographic statistics from Go4theGoal about their non-profit organization.

He left the note quietly on his brother’s bed so he could see it when he woke up. The prospect of facing the next day was daunting, but the few words on the paper seemed to create an aura of hope around the looming day. An aura almost golden. And when Richard Stefanacci awoke, he found the note. And on it, among words of hope and optimism, was “Go for the goal.”
Richard was a ninth grade student at Camden Catholic High School in 2006 when his life took an unforeseen turn: he was diagnosed with cancer. Yet, despite the life-altering journey he was about to encounter, Beth Stefanacci, his mother, recalled the blessings that surrounded the situation.
“We felt that we had every piece of the puzzle to navigate this very frightening… journey that was ahead of us. My husband is a physician, so medically we understood a lot [of what] was going on. We were financially secure. We lived just about a ten-minute drive from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, which at that time, was the best place for his treatment, in the country, and probably in the world,” Mrs. Stefanacci said.
Within a few weeks, Mrs. Stefanacci — recognizing the dire situation other families may find themselves in without the necessary resources — founded the non-profit organization “Go4theGoal.” As Founding Director, her goal is to alleviate as much suffering as she can and provide any distraction during the difficult time when a child is diagnosed with cancer.
“When you have a child that is diagnosed with cancer, it takes one parent full time to care for their child who is sick with cancer. [That] parent has to either significantly reduce their work hours, which would mean a reduction in their salary and income, or they have to leave their job altogether, which could… mean they lose their health benefits. We saw that these families were not only dealt a very difficult card with the potential of their child dying from a diagnosis such as cancer, but they were also impacted financially. And we knew that if we could alleviate the financial burden from these families, [they] could really focus on what was most important.”

Marlee Petkov (‘24)

Mrs. Stefanacci walked this journey already. Now she felt like it was her time to give back to others trekking the path. Through altruistic efforts, Go4theGoal fulfills wide-ranging requests of struggling families. In the past 15 years, it has supported families nationwide, many times anonymously, for utilities, water bills, rent, mortgages, grocery bills, transportation and more.
Go4theGoal aims to distract. While there is a need for hope for the future, there are still children living with the bleak reality of their diagnosis. Go4theGoal issues grants that make spaces inside hospitals have a brighter ambiance as a mirror of optimism and positivity. In other instances, their grants helped with improvements in areas such as technology, media rooms and teenage spaces. In addition, their funds go towards family support groups, survivor commemorations, and bereavement programs. In all, the funding is usually tailored toward the specific recipient.
“Every hospital is different and they all seem to have different needs. We don’t like to say we only will address x, y and z. We want to hear what the needs are and assist with those needs,” said Mrs. Stefanacci.
To help bring joy and relief, Go4theGoal also started a program called Kart 4 Kids that funds carts filled with age-appropriate items, snacks, and technology to give to hospitals around the country. Other initiatives include “Adopt-a-Family,” where social workers help families by helping buy gifts off their wishlist for the holidays and “Back-to-School Backpacks” which helps kids with back-to-school shopping.
Go4theGoal has worked to show that the battle against cancer does not have to be individual. There is something within the community that can unite everyone together for a common cause.
For instance, in the “Adopt-a-Family’’ program, the community can help wrap and plan gifts and assemble gift baskets, and business owners can use their company to “adopt” a family. For “Back-to-School Backpacks,” members of the community can help pack backpacks and bring them to the hospitals, fundraise for school supplies or run a drive to get a collection of supplies.
In support of Richard’s fight and all of those who have fought or are still fighting pediatric cancer, athletic teams around the country lace up with gold shoelaces as part of Go4The Goal’s Lace Up initiative.
Teams from all different levels have participated: youth club teams, school teams, every division on the collegiate level and professional teams. Hope for the future is threaded within the community — creating an aura fully golden.
While Go4theGoal does aim to distract, they also aim to push the fight forward. To further expand the research done on diseases, Go4theGoal has provided more than one million dollars towards research grants to further the knowledge surrounding pediatric cancer so one day a cure might be found.
“We know that we can make a difference. We are going to make a difference… To continue what we are doing and reach more families is where our goal is,” Mrs. Stefanacci said.
Richard sadly lost his fight with cancer shortly before his 15th birthday. Go for the goal. There is a need for more shots taken. More running together down the field. United in the struggle, but still going forward. Because one day the ball will go into the net. And when it does, Go4theGoal won’t need to exist anymore. But maybe that’s the point of it all.