Foundation Raises Funds for Pediatric Brain Cancer Research

Marianna McGaha
June 04, 2024
The Horn family smiling

On Memorial Day of 2021, 9-year-old Insley Horn was taken to the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion after her mother, Karen, found her in her room having seizures. Within hours of her arrival, Insley was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Until that day, Insley had shown no signs of a brain tumor or any other medical issues. Just three days later, on June 3, 2021, that brain tumor took Insley’s life.

Insley was just one month out from her ninth birthday. Her passing crushed those around her.

“Insley was known as the light in every room,” Karen said. “She had a kind heart and was always asking how she could help.”

Karen and Wade, Insley’s parents, knew that after her passing, they had to create something to keep her legacy of kindness and giving alive.

After learning more about pediatric brain cancer and the lack of funding available for research, the Horns realized they could help change what’s possible for other children. In November of 2021, The Monka Foundation was born. They named their nonprofit after Insley’s favorite stuffed animal, a giant monkey named Monka. The Monka Foundation is committed to raising funds for pediatric brain cancer research, support to families of pediatric brain cancer patients and for the MUSC Children’s Hospital, which made a significant impact on Insley, her family and friends.

Karen says it was also important to them that the money they raised stay local. “We wanted to be able to tangibly see the impact of our fundraising and to share it with all who donate.”

With the help of the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and its staff, the Horns learned about the Darby Children's Research Institute at MUSC – an entire building dedicated to
the exploration and development of new ways to diagnose, prevent, treat and cure childhood illnesses and injuries. In particular, the lab of Jezabel Rodriguez-Blanco, Ph.D., is dedicated to researching new treatments for pediatric brain tumors.

The Monka Foundation supports Rodriguez-Blanco’s lab with an annual gala, held on Insley’s birthday weekend, and a charity golf tournament. The Monka Foundation has also been the beneficiary of funds raised by people who were inspired by Insley’s story. Since its inception in 2021, The Monka Foundation has donated nearly $100,000 to Rodriguez-Blanco’s research.

Donating to the children’s hospital has allowed the Horns to deliver their checks to Rodriguez-Blanco, tour her lab and see firsthand the equipment that the lab has been able to purchase from their funds.

Seeing their impact motivates the Horns to keep giving and to encourage others to do the same.

“Being able to go to the hospital and see what our nonprofit has been able to give to them has been so rewarding, inspiring and a beautiful way to see Insley’s kind heart still giving back,” Karen said.