By Peter Schwartz
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My son Bradley knew his friend Michael was sick. When they were at the same day camp this past summer, most of the kids knew what the situation was, but they expected to see Michael back at school with them when September came around.

However, Michael’s conditioned worsened, and he wasn’t there for the first day of school. In fact, he never stepped foot into a classroom again. On Nov. 30, pediatric cancer took his life at the age of 10.

Ten years old.

How do you explain that to another 10-year-old? Then again, how do you explain this to the boy’s parents or any adult? It just doesn’t make any sense.

Here’s something else that doesn’t make any sense.

Only 4  percent of the National Cancer Institute’s budget is dedicated to pediatric cancer research. The vast majority of funding is reserved for adult cancer, and that means funding aimed at pediatric cancer has to come from private and philanthropic causes.

That’s were initiatives like Tackle Kids Cancer comes into play.

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“The story you told us is the story that we hear continually,” said Peter Hughes, vice president of strategic activation for Hackensack Meridian Health. “Somebody has been touched by cancer in some way, shape or form.”

Launched in September 2015 by the HackensackUMC Foundation, Tackle Kids Cancer has raised more than $3 million and continues to make great strides in raising funds and awareness for pediatric cancer and research. Thanks to partnerships with the Giants and quarterback Eli Manning, along with the Red Bulls and goalkeeper Luis Robles, the organization has brought a lot of attention to pediatric cancer, and now it has added a new partner.

Eli Manning

Giants quarterback Eli Manning chats with a child. (Photo courtesy of Steinlight Media)

On Thursday, Tackle Kids Cancer formed a partnership with Madison Square Garden and the Garden of Dreams Foundation that aligns the initiative with the Knicks, Liberty, the arena and Radio City Music Hall.

“The Garden is at the center of the universe in the world of sports and entertainment,” Hughes said. “New York City is the center of the world, and we couldn’t be more excited. We think that the partnerships bode well for tapping into the generosity and spirit, and we know people will support Tackle Kids Cancer regardless of where they live.”

One hundred percent of donations made to Tackle Kids Cancer will go toward benefiting the essential clinical care, unique support services and groundbreaking cancer research that is needed to find a cure.

As part of Thursday’s announcement, two Tackle Kids Cancer children — 9-year-old Kaia from Hackensack, New Jersey, and 12-year-old Danny from Wayne, New Jersey — served as honorary ball kids for the Knicks-Magic game at Madison Square Garden.

Sports can be a great way for a charitable cause to increase visibility and ultimately raise money.

Luis Robles

The Red Bulls’ Luis Robles (Photo courtesy of Steinlight Media)

“We have great relationships with Eli Manning and Luis Robles,” Hughes said. “We don’t have any specific relationships yet with the Knicks or Liberty, but we hope that’s one of the things that come down the road. What we found with both Luis and Eli is that once they learn about the cause, they adopt the cause, and they do it because it’s the right thing to do.”

In just over 15 months, Tackle Kids Cancer has done some amazing things for pediatric cancer research, including a great deal of fundraising. Having great partners, along with many outstanding athletes who are recognizable and personable, has meant a lot to the initiative. With Madison Square Garden now on board, perhaps the best is yet to come.

“We did our anniversary this year,” Hughes said. “We’re in our second year with the Giants and our first year with all of the other teams. It’s been an amazingly fast ride, and we’ve raised a lot of money in just over a year.”

The combination of Tackle Kids Cancer and Garden of Dreams is a wonderful partnership that will raise funds and attention for a very worthy cause. Strides are being made in the fight against pediatric cancer, but there’s plenty of work still to be done.

I would like to dedicate this blog to Michael Martinez, a 10-year-old boy who was taken from us way too soon but touched the lives of so many people including his family, friends and our community here on Long Island.

You can follow me on Twitter @pschwartzcbsfan. You can also follow @TackleKidsCancr and @gardenofdreams.

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