Join Club

Turning grief into action, local mother aims to raise $100K this year for childhood cancer research

Michele Fleming and her son Spencer host a lemonade stand to raise money for childhood cancer research (courtesy of Michele Fleming)

(Updated 12:07 p.m.) Michele Fleming says losing a child to cancer is the “hardest possible thing you can imagine.”

Though Fleming is still reeling from the loss of her 18-year-old son Nathan, who lost his battle with cancer in 2019, she has used that grief to raise more than $300,000 toward childhood cancer research.

“It’s honestly still very hard to talk about,” Fleming told ARLnow. “But doing this — trying to help other kids in Nathan’s honor — is very healing.”

Following Nathan’s passing, Fleming founded Nathan’s Cancer Slayers in 2020 in collaboration with Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation, an organization created in memory of 8-year-old Alexandra “Alex” Scott, who died of cancer in August 2004.

Since establishing Nathan’s Cancer Slayers, Fleming and her nationwide team of hundreds of volunteers have collectively raised $310,759 by hosting lemonade stands and participating in the annual “Million Mile” event, where participants of all ages log miles walked, bicycled or run throughout September to raise funds for children with cancer.

This weekend, she will be hosting another lemonade stand at Beyer Volvo in Falls Church and other local vendors have pledged to donate portions of their sales this month.

Fleming aims to raise $100,000 by the end of this year. The money would fund ongoing research by Drs. Jeff Toretsky and Aykut Üren at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Toretsky was also Nathan’s oncologist.

For years, Toretsky and his colleague Üren have worked to find better drug treatments for rhabdomyosarcoma, a type of cancer that develops in voluntary muscles that control movements, such as those in arms and legs. Nathan had been diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma, which commonly affects large muscles in the torso, arms and legs.

While Toretsky said he and Üren have made progress, one of the main challenges in pediatric cancer research is finding funding to develop a drug treatment for a specific type of cancer.

According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 400 to 500 new cases of rhabdomyosarcoma are diagnosed each year in the United States. The majority of these cases occur in children and teens, with over half affecting children younger than 10 years old. Rhabdomyosarcoma constitutes about 3% of all childhood cancers.

Because these numbers are so low, Toretsky said it is difficult to get grants from drug makers to fund the research, noting Fleming’s fundraising is a primary reason why he and Üren have been able to continue their research.

“When people do things like Michele, the impact of the research dollars are significant,” Toretsky told ARLnow, adding that their research could eventually offer broader insights into cancer genetics that may apply to other types of cancer.

“But one of the things we’ve learned over 50 years of cancer research is that sometimes when we learn something about a very rare cancer, it does end up becoming generalizable… that can help many, many, many more patients,” Toretsky said.

More details from Fleming on her upcoming fundraiser.

We are hoping the community will help us take advantage of the VOLVO Match from 14-17 September, when VOLVO will match every donation dollar for dollar. We encourage everyone to please consider donating during this time for twice the impact to help kids fight cancer.

We’re also very excited that Beyer Volvo of Falls Church is donating $100 for every car sold between 19 August and 17 September, thanks to the generosity and compassion of General Manager Pete Kesterson. We will be holding a Lemonade Stand at the dealership on 16 September from 12-3 pm, the final weekend of the Beyer promotion! Please swing by to say hello and hopefully buy a new VOLVO!

Arlington’s Pie-Tanza, Pupatella Pizzeria, Safford Brown Honda, Arrowine, The Redstone Group, Lebanese Taverna, Tantus Technologies, Inc. as well as Fall Church’s Preservation Biscuit Company, Bethesda’s Capital Laser & Skin Care, and DC’s Indigo Health Clinic have all donated directly to the fundraiser in recent years. We are beyond grateful for the outpouring of support from local businesses that has greatly contributed to our team’s success!

This year, Pie-Tanza for the fourth consecutive year is donating 10% of its sales every Wednesday during September, including on Nathan’s 22nd birthday on 20 September. Pie-Tanza co-owner Karen Waltman has also graciously donated the restaurant’s epic brownies for all 11 of our Lemonade Stands so far this year. We’re also very grateful to Jennifer Brady at the Falls Church Farmers Market, Tricia Barba at Preservation Biscuit Company, and Garrick Samuel at Giant Food on Washington Blvd. in Arlington for hosting our Lemonade Stands during the past two years.

My main purpose in life now is helping other kids and their families win their battle against cancer, in honor of Nathan. I hope you’ll consider writing this follow-up feature about Nathan’s story to bring more attention and funds to this very important cause, particularly during the VOLVO match period, which makes an enormous difference in how much we raise for research!

Recent Stories

ARLnow Daily Debrief for Sep 27, 2023

Good Wednesday evening, Arlington. Let’s take a look back at today’s stories and a look forward to tomorrow’s event calendar. 🕗 News recap The following articles were published earlier today…

(Updated at 6:35 p.m.) Black and Hispanic students remain more likely to be suspended from Arlington Public Schools than their peers, according to new data. Specifically, Black students make up…

Whether it’s T. Swift tickets, cash money, or a prime parking spot, most DMV-area residents agree that time is actually their most valuable currency. A universal experience of car owners…

A large, $18 million stormwater vault underneath Cardinal Elementary School in the flood-prone Westover neighborhood is now complete. The vault responds to community concerns that arose after significant flooding washed over…

At Generation Hope, we’re dedicated to supporting teen parents in college as they work toward earning their degrees. We are in need of caring child care volunteers for upcoming events on Saturday, October 21st (in Washington, DC), and Saturday, November 4th (in Arlington, VA). Join our growing volunteer community and support us at an event this fall!

At all of our events, we provide free onsite child care for the children of the teen parents we serve, creating a nurturing environment for the kiddos while their parents learn valuable life skills and build community.

If you enjoy working with children and are looking to make an immediate impact in your community, please visit to learn more.

Submit your own Announcement here.

Join us for Arlington’s biggest civil rights & social justice event of the year. The banquet is back in person at the Arlington Campus of George Mason University.

Our keynote speaker this year is Symone Sanders from MSNBC and former Chief of Staff for Vice-President Kamala Harris.

The Master of Ceremonies is Joshua Cole, former state delegate, NAACP President, and local pastor.

Tickets/seating are limited. Purchase your ticket today! Sponsorship opportunities available.

Read More

Submit your own Announcement here.

Standup Comedy Showcase Starring John F. O’Donnell (Comedy Central)

Live standup comedy starring John F. O’Donnell (Comedy Central)
Friday, October 20

Headliner: John F. O’Donnell

John was a correspondent on the radical comedy news TV show, “Redacted Tonight,” for 5 years. Recently, he released his debut one-hour standup special,

Arlington Metaphysical Chapel Presents METAPHEST, October 14-15, 2023

Workshops on: ~ Meditation ~ Intro to Tarot: The Aces and Major Arcana

~ Ageless Aging ~ Past Life Regression ~ Animal Communication and Healing

~ Psychometry ~ Spiritual Healing ~ Self Soul Love ~ Consciously Clearing Clutter ~ Awareness/Mindfulness/Consciousness.


Subscribe to our mailing list