Bryson Mittman likes to think big. The aspiring entrepreneur has plans to own sound studios and barbershops across the country. He is also interested in playing in the National Football League.

The 9-year-old Durham resident has a few years to go before he chooses a career, but until then, his current big idea is to raise money for multiple myeloma research.

‘Better to give than to receive’

Gilbert Casterlow, Jr., and Bryce Mittman
Bryson Mittman, right, with his grandfather, Gilbert Casterlow, Jr., PhD.

For the past three years, Bryson has asked his family and friends to donate to UNC Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center’s multiple myeloma research program rather than buy him birthday presents. Bryson is motivated by his love for his grandfather, Gilbert Casterlow, Jr., PhD, who was diagnosed with multiple myeloma, a form of blood cancer, in 2004. Casterlow is a patient of Sascha Tuchman, MD, MHS, director of UNC Lineberger’s Multiple Myeloma and Amyloidosis Program.

“I already get presents at Christmas, and my parents taught me that it’s better to give than to receive, so I thought it would be nice to do something for someone else on my birthday,” Bryson said. “Plus, I love my granddad and want to help him however I can. He’s cool, really smart and funny, too.”

Casterlow, a retired math professor and administrator at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro, has received care at UNC Lineberger for more than a decade. His treatment regimen has included conventional therapies as well as a double stem cell transplant in 2005 as part of a clinical trial.

Tuchman said he is not surprised by Bryson’s generosity, a trait the third-grader shares with his grandparents and his family.

“It’s truly inspiring to us all who are conducting research, treating patients, and looking for a cure, that such a young man again has chosen to raise awareness and research funding for multiple myeloma,” Tuchman said. “For lots of other young people, saving up is for video games or a new bike. For Bryson, it’s for trying to cure his granddad’s cancer. Amazing.”

Raising funds during the COVID-19 pandemic

Bonita Mittman, Bryson’s mom, said the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges for this year’s birthday fundraiser, but it didn’t deter Bryson, who raised $250.

“Bryson’s continued commitment to raise money for cancer research makes us so very proud,” Bonita Mittman said. “With all the uncertainty and restrictions in place because of COVID-19, we told him that his birthday celebration may look at little different this year.”

Bonita Mittman said she prepared Bryson to be potentially disappointed, “but he looked at his Dad and me and said, ‘well we still have to get the notes out to people for the cancer fundraising donations,’ and so we did! We are so thankful to have such an amazing and thoughtful kid.”

Bryson, who enjoys playing football and running track when he’s not making comic books, playing video games or watching movies with family, said he hopes the money his family and friends have donated will lead to the development of new treatments.

“Raising money for cancer research is important because the funds can help patients with new treatment options, help doctors with exploring other drugs and hopefully help find a cure for cancer,” Bryson said.

 

Media Contact: Bill Schaller, bill_schaller@med.unc.edu, (617) 233-5507