Dianne Traynor, president and co-founder of the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation and co-founder of the Ride for Kids motorcycle charity program, died today in Atlanta, Georgia, after a long illness. She was 67.
Dianne and her late husband, Mike, began the Ride for Kids program in 1984 to raise funds for childhood brain tumor research. Its success led them to start the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation (PBTF), which is now the world’s largest philanthropic organization dedicated to finding a cure for the deadliest form of childhood cancer.
“Dianne worked tirelessly to advance cutting-edge research and to ensure that every dollar invested had the best chances of making a positive difference,” said PBTF board member Chris Hoefflin. “She and her late husband, Mike, came into our lives in 1993 when my young son was battling a malignant brain tumor. Their warmth and compassion for him and our family was so genuine, as was their commitment to finding cures for thousands of afflicted children.”
An Atlanta native and University of Georgia graduate, Dianne worked as a teacher and accountant before dedicating her life to the PBTF. Her personal struggle with breast cancer in the 1980s made her a passionate advocate for patients and families. Under her guidance, the foundation’s family support program grew to include social work, educational resources, and college scholarships for survivors.
She also educated herself in the intricacies of complex scientific research to become an expert grant funder. The PBTF has supported basic, translational and clinical research at more than 50 institutions around the world. Today the Pediatric Brain Tumor Foundation Institute program includes Duke University, the University of California, San Francisco, and the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.
Dianne was instrumental in the establishment of the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States and the Society of Neuro-Oncology’s journal, Neuro-Oncology. She also helped to organize the Alliance for Childhood Cancer, an advocacy group made up of other nonprofits, medical professionals and social workers.
“Dianne Traynor, with her husband Mike, established the major foundation in the world for helping children with brain tumors,” said Dr. Darell Bigner, director of the PBTF Institute and the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University and chair of the PBTF’s Scientific Advisory Board. “They devoted all their energy toward helping children by sponsoring research, college scholarships for survivors, and family support programs. I know of no one who led a more noble way of life.”
Following Mike’s death in 2009, Dianne became the PBTF’s president and chairman of the board. She also served on the board of directors of the Central Brain Tumor Registry of the United States, and was a patient advocate for the National Cancer Institute’s Brain Tumor Specialized Program of Research Excellence.
Many organizations honored Dianne’s accomplishments during her lifetime. She and Mike shared the American Motorcyclist Association’s Hazel Kolb Brighter Image Award and Motorcycle Consumer News’ Culberson Memorial Award for their work with Ride for Kids®. Her efforts on behalf of childhood brain tumor research were recognized by the Society of Neuro-Oncology, the International Society of Pediatric Neuro-Oncology, and the International Brain Tumor Therapy and Research Meeting. In 2011 Duke University established the Mike and Dianne Traynor Lecture to honor the couple’s research legacy.
“The foundation was Dianne and Mike’s life work, and it will go on,” said PBTF Vice President Glenn Wilcox. “Our board began a national search for a new executive director earlier this year. We expect to complete that process in the very near future. As Dianne has said, ‘The opportunity to save the lives of children suffering from brain tumors is greater than at any other time in the history of fighting this disease. The new executive director will step into a well-established research infrastructure and accomplish far more in the next 10 years than was thought possible when we began.’ In the meantime, our top-notch staff is ensuring that the vital work of the foundation is continuing to move forward.”
Dianne is survived by her mother, Mary Sawyer of Atlanta; her brother, Tom Sawyer, and his wife, Dianne, of Marietta; three stepsons; and nine grandchildren. In addition to Mike, she was preceded in death by her daughter, Angela Wood, and her father, William Sawyer.
Funeral arrangements are pending. Please check our website, www.curethekids.org, and our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/pbtfus, for updates.