Gabriella’s Smashing Walnuts makes first grant; $100K to brain doctor
On this the 10-month anniversary of Miller's death, Smashing Walnuts pledged $100,000 to Dr. Javad Nazarian of the Children's National Health System. Nazarian, to whom the Millers donated Gabriella's brain following her death, leads a research lab within the Children’s Research Institute at CNHS, focusing on Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), the aggressive brain tumor that Gabriella died from at the age of 10.
Ellyn Miller, Gabriella's mother, said her daughter's “dream was for Smashing Walnuts to raise money to fund research to find a cure.”
“Now, we are taking the first steps to fulfilling her dream,” Ellyn Miller said in a prepared statement. “We are so grateful to the Washington Redskins and Children’s National Health System for joining us in the fight against childhood brain cancer.”
The Smashing Walnuts grant presentation was hosted by the Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation at Redskins Park in Ashburn. The Redskins foundation previously arranged a special event to benefit Smashing Walnuts -- a dinner and chalk talk featuring franchise President and General Manager Bruce Allen and several prominent Redskins players.
The name of the foundation, launched by Gabriella and her parents, was inspired by the nut-sized tumor on Gabriela's brain. The family would smash walnuts with a frying pan to signify the daughter defeating the cancer.
In her final year, Gabriella became a regional hero and a titan for childhood cancer awareness. Following her diagnosis, in December 2012 Gabriella mobilized people across the nation to write 240,000 letters to Santa, dropping them off at Macy's to raise $240,000 dollars for the Make-a-Wish foundation, which prompted Macy's to add $25,000 to the donation. Gabriella was frequently featured on local and national news outlets and named Loudoun County's 2012 Volunteer of the Year. In her final months, she wrote a children's book on cancer, spoke in Washington, D.C., traveled to Paris on a Make-a-Wish trip and earned an honorary degree from Shenandoah University.
Ellyn Miller, her husband Mark and their son Jake in April were invited to the White House to watch the president sign the Gabriella Miller Kids First Research Act in the Oval Office. The act aims to direct more federal funds to childhood cancer research, though securing the appropriation has yet to happen, according to Senate sources.
“We always knew that Gabriella was going to be remembered,” Mark Miller told the Times-Mirror shortly after the bill signing. “We just assumed it would be for something she did 30 or 40 years from now. We always assumed that she would have us in the Oval Office because it was her office.”