MILWAUKEE, July 23, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- At its annual meeting of more than 10,000 financial representatives and staff members today, Northwestern Mutual announced its new multi-year philanthropic program to fight childhood cancer. The effort, through the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, builds upon the company's legacy of helping children and families.  It leverages Northwestern Mutual's field force throughout the country to implement a range of community events and programs to raise awareness and money for pediatric cancer.

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To kick off the program, Northwestern Mutual donated nearly $500,000 in grants to two leading nonprofit organizations focused on fighting childhood cancer and helping families, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) and Starlight Children's Foundation™ (SCF). Through these partnerships, Northwestern Mutual will activate a range of programs and events in communities across the country.  The company is establishing the Northwestern Mutual Childhood Cancer Research Fund and Family Travel Fund in partnership with Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation. In early 2013, it will also fund Great Escapes and Fun Centers around the nation through Starlight Children's Foundation.

"Cancer is the leading cause of death by disease in children under the age of 15 in the United States. And yet, childhood cancer research and services for families currently facing this disease are vastly and consistently underfunded," said Northwestern Mutual Chairman and CEO John Schlifske. "This effort will harness the spirit and passion of thousands of Northwestern Mutual field force members and employees to make a real and lasting impact."

The Northwestern Mutual Childhood Cancer Research Fund will support ALSF's current initiatives to provide grants to support a wide range of critical research, including:

  • Innovation Grants to provide vital seed funding for experienced medical investigators with a novel and promising approach to finding causes and cures for childhood cancer;
  • Young Investigator Grants to encourage the best and brightest young scientists to enter the field of pediatric cancer research; and
  • Program Infrastructure Grants to speed up the process of enrolling children with cancer in clinical trials.

The Family Travel Fund will fund ALSF's existing efforts to assist families facing the enormous financial costs of traveling to help their children receive life-saving treatments away from home. The fund will help pay for food, airfare, gas and lodging.

In partnership with Starlight Children's Foundation, Northwestern Mutual will give families with a seriously ill child the chance to spend time together, escape their medical worries and return home with a renewed sense of strength, hope and community through Great Escapes. Northwestern Mutual will also give children and teens in hospitals a chance to play video games and watch movies through Starlight Fun Centers, mobile entertainment systems that bring needed fun and distraction from medical treatments.

About the Northwestern Mutual Foundation

The mission of the Northwestern Mutual Foundation – the largest corporate foundation in the state of Wisconsin – is to build strong, vibrant communities that serve as a legacy to future generations. The Foundation's giving is designed to create an impact on the communities where the company's employees and financial representatives live and work. In fiscal year 2012, the Foundation will contribute $16.7 million to nonprofit organizations across the country.

About Northwestern Mutual

The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company – Milwaukee, WI (Northwestern Mutual) – among the "World's Most Admired" life insurance companies in 2012 according to FORTUNE® magazine – has helped clients achieve financial security for more than 155 years. As a mutual company with $1.2 trillion of life insurance protection in force, Northwestern Mutual has no shareholders. The company focuses solely and directly on its clients and seeks to deliver consistent and dependable value to them over time.  Northwestern Mutual and its subsidiaries offer a holistic approach to financial security solutions including: life insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, annuities, investment products, and advisory products and services. Subsidiaries include Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC, broker-dealer, registered investment adviser, member FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company, limited purpose federal savings bank; and Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company; and Russell Investments.

About Starlight Children's Foundation

When a child is diagnosed with a serious illness, the day-to-day joys of childhood take a back seat to the rigors of treatment and hospitalization. Starlight Children's Foundation™ is a leading global health and education charity working to embrace, empower and enrich the lives of children from illness to wellness.  Since 1983, Starlight has been improving the quality of life for children with serious medical conditions through programming that helps kids cope with the experiences of prolonged illness.  Starlight's innovative programs have been proven to distract children from their pain and lessen the need for pain medication, help young people better understand and manage their illness, and connect families with others facing similar challenges so that no one feels alone.  Each year Starlight enriches the lives of more than 4.5 million children globally by providing ongoing support to children, parents and siblings in all U.S. states and every province in Canada, and is a leading children's charity in the United Kingdom and Australia. To learn more visit www.starlight.org.

About Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation

Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation (ALSF) emerged from the front yard lemonade stand of cancer patient Alexandra "Alex" Scott (1996-2004). In 2000, 4-year-old Alex announced that she wanted to hold a lemonade stand to raise money to help find a cure for all children with cancer. Since Alex held that first stand, the Foundation bearing her name has evolved into a national fundraising movement, complete with thousands of supporters across the country carrying on her legacy of hope. To date, Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, a registered 501(c)3 charity, has raised more than $55 million toward fulfilling Alex's dream of finding a cure, funding over 250 pediatric cancer research projects nationally. For more information on Alex's Lemonade Stand Foundation, visit AlexsLemonade.org.

SOURCE Northwestern Mutual