Brotherly Love Inspires a Fundraiser

Watching his younger brother survive two brain tumors inspired 14-year-old Samson Wiener to raise $40,000 for brain tumor research through FACES (Finding A Cure for Epilepsy and Seizures) at NYU Langone.  

Samson and Jonah at home

Just after Jonah Wiener began first grade, his family received news that would forever change their lives: Jonah had a brain tumor and would need emergency surgery to remove it. Less than 48 hours later, Dr. Howard Weiner of NYU Langone, one of only two pediatric neurosurgeons on the East Coast considered an expert on Jonah’s specific tumor, performed a successful operation. 

But their struggle with Jonah’s condition wasn’t over. Jonah’s recovery period proved long and difficult; Jonah missed six months of school, which he spent learning how to walk and play the sports he loved once again.

To Jonah’s older brother, Samson, then 8, Jonah became an increasing source of inspiration. As a result, they grew even closer than they’d been—which was pretty close. “The way he re-learned how to do everyday tasks, like walking up and down stairs, it just created a more special bond for us,” says Samson. “The work he put in on a day-to-day basis really taught me so much about life.” 

Three short years later, when Jonah was 10, a routine follow-up MRI showed another brain tumor. Samson and his parents were devastated. “It was even more heartbreaking than the first tumor, because he had worked so hard to get where he was,” says Samson.

Dr. Weiner conducted the second surgery as well, this time performing a new, significantly less invasive procedure that had not been available three years prior. It, too, was a success. This time, Jonah was back in school and playing sports, not in six months, but in six weeks. 

Jonah and Samson play football in Central Park.

This past October, when Samson celebrated his bar mitzvah and needed to choose his mitzvah project (a “mitzvah” being a customary social act of giving in the Jewish tradition), he immediately knew he wanted to find a way to honor his younger brother. He decided to raise money for his family’s brain tumor research fund, which benefits FACES (Finding A Cure for Epilepsy and Seizures), a research and community support program affiliated with NYU Langone Medical Center. Samson created a peer-to-peer fundraising campaign and ran a 5K race through Central Park—with Jonah by his side. He raised nearly $40,000 for FACES, to help other kids like his brother.

The fundraising campaign was an easy choice for Samson. “Sitting with Jonah in the hospital, I saw other families who were not as lucky as us. My goal is to help the doctors find ways to treat people with all kinds of brain tumors. Everyone should have a chance at a happy ending.” 

Andy, Jonah, Allyson, and Samson Wiener take a walk with their dog, Taco, near their home in the Upper West Side.


 

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