Thousands of donors in Oregon and beyond responded to Nike Co-founder Phil Knight and his wife Penny's fundraising challenge in support of OHSU's ambitious two-year, $1 billion campaign to revolutionize early cancer detection and treatment. Thanks to every one of those donors, we met the challenge – ahead of the deadline – in June 2015. There is a collective sense of urgency around OHSU's vision to create smarter ways to detect and treat cancer. We are thankful to all of our donors for their support. Here are some of their stories.
Newlyweds raise $5,000 for Knight Cancer Challenge
When Ali Afghan and his then-fiancée Billy Gibbons sat down to talk about their upcoming wedding, the couple recognized an opportunity to do something special. “’We don’t need anything,’” Ali remembers saying. “’So instead of having more of everything, why don’t we do something else?’”
In this case, that meant asking for gifts to the Knight Cancer Challenge in lieu of registering with local retailers for gifts.
It was an obvious choice for Ali, who in 2007 was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia. Soon afterward, he started seeing Richard Maziarz, M.D., at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. Ali started treatment the day after Christmas in 2010 and eventually received six rounds of chemotherapy in late 2010 and early 2011. He has been healthy and cancer-free ever since. “I was immediately impressed with Dr. Maziarz and his staff,” he said. “They didn’t have to, but they made it personal and interacted with me like I was a family member. That made a difference.”
Ali and Billy were married on Valentine’s Day 2015; between those who attended the wedding and made donations after the fact, Ali and Billy’s inspiring gesture raised $5,000 for the Knight cancer Challenge
Oregon Cancer Ski Out continues long fundraising tradition
The Oregon Cancer Ski Out has a long history of fundraising for local cancer causes, including the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. The event started in 1988 when a group of friends, mourning the loss of loved ones to cancer, decided to start a lighthearted ski and snowboard race as a way to positively channel their sadness into something that would benefit others.
The OHSU Knight Cancer Institute was an early recipient of the funds raised at the event, and that tradition continued in 2015, when 24 teams of five raced down Mt. Hood Meadows throughout the weekend to raise money that will ultimately go toward the Knight Cancer Challenge. Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute’s Melanoma Research Program and chair of the OHSU Department of Dermatology, served as the event’s keynote speaker.
The Oregon Cancer Ski Out, which encourages participants to wear fun costumes on the slopes, has raised more than $195,000 for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute since 1988.
Firefighters from throughout Oregon raise $21,000
Firefighters from throughout Oregon made a $21,000 donation to Unite for the Knight, a group of unions and businesses raising money for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, in March 2015. The money raised will count toward the Knight Cancer Challenge.
The Oregon State Fire Fighters Council spearheaded the effort and received contributions from firefighters from 18 local unions throughout the state.
Celebrate thank a doctor day
This blog post was originally published on our Doernbecher "Healthy Families" blog.
In celebration of March 30th as National Doctors Day, we sat down with OHSU's Dr. Nate Selden to ask what inspired him to become a physician – and what continues to inspire him in his day-to-day life as the Chair of Pediatric Neurosurgery at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital and Director of OHSU's Neurological Surgery Residency Program.
What’s the most rewarding part of your job?
The most rewarding part of my job comes in two parts. One is to see a patient back in my clinic after a challenging operation with a great outcome. When I can reassure parents that the prognosis is good, I see the strain and worry lift from their shoulders. And I see that the children, especially the younger ones, are simply their resilient selves, blissfully unaware of how serious their condition was. The second part is to share that experience with the resident trainees who care for children with me. Their wonder and deep satisfaction as they experience these successes for the first time are palpable. Occasionally, we inspire one of them to pursue pediatric neurosurgery, and that is a terrific endorsement of the work we do at Doernbecher.
If you would like to leave a message of thanks for your favorite doctor, visit our Facebook page or consider giving back in your doctor's name here.
Notes of Hope alum puts on play, benefit for Knight Cancer Challenge
Brianna Barrett’s cancer journey began in early 2013, when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and treated at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. Two years later, with her cancer in remission, Barrett decided to give back to the Knight Cancer Institute’s Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology (AYA) Program.
Barrett offered three workshop performances of a play she wrote and directed, “36 Perfectly Appropriate Mealtime Conversations,” in January 2015 at Portland’s Clinton Street Theater. One dollar from each ticket sold went toward the OHSU's Knight Cancer Institute’s Adolescent and Young Adult Oncology Program, which in turn benefitted the Knight Cancer Challenge fundraising campaign.
Barrett was excited to share the production, a humorous love story about gender and identity crisis, with wider audiences. “This is the first big project I've done since having cancer and being done with cancer,” Barrett said. “It’s been a great experience.”
Simply Waterproof donates portion of sales to Knight Cancer Challenge
Simply Waterproof, a San Diego, California-based company that sells sleeves for phones, tables, and laptops, announced in November 2014 plans to donate 20% of all online sales to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and Knight Cancer Challenge.
"We are very excited to help OHSU reach this monumental goal and support the work of the Knight Cancer Institute," said Steve Barrow, Director of Sales and Marketing for Simply Waterproof, in a press release. "It's rare to meet someone who hasn't either dealt with cancer directly or has known of someone who has. Disease does not discriminate. Disease does not adhere to or even acknowledge political, economic or social boundaries. As individuals the fight against disease is overwhelming, but collectively, we can do amazing things. We are thrilled by the progress and work of the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute."
Northwest coffee company makes $222,000 donation
Dutch Bros. Coffee marked Breast Cancer Awareness month in October 2014 by selling travel mugs to raise funds for the ongoing Knight Cancer Challenge. The purple mugs were emblazoned with the phrase “Be Aware,” and $5 from each sale benefitted the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. In all, the coffee chain, with 233 locations in seven Western states, raised $222,240 for the Knight Cancer Challenge.
“We are deeply grateful to Dutch Bros., all of their customers and employees for supporting the Knight Cancer Challenge and the significant contribution their efforts will make in advancing breast cancer research,” said Lisa Coussens, Ph.D., associate director of basic research at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. “These funds will help us pursue the most promising research more quickly and, ultimately, bring new hope to breast cancer patients.”
Portland company celebrates holiday season with $20,000 donation
Fortis Construction, a general contractor based in Portland, Ore., celebrated the holidays with a $20,000 donation to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and the Knight Cancer Challenge. The company released a digital Christmas card in December 2014 both recapping its successful year and announcing the donation.
Winterhawks hit the links to raise money for the Knight Cancer Institute
When Kyle Gustafson’s father was diagnosed with prostate cancer, the Portland Winterhawks assistant coach knew he wanted to make a difference. Inspired by his father’s fight against the disease and looking to blend two of his passions—golf and hockey—Gustafson in 2013 helped launch the first Friends of Winterhawks Golf Tournament at the Reserve Vineyards and Golf Club in Aloha, Ore. Players and coaches participated in the one-day tournament, which raised $10,000 for the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute and the Knight Cancer Challenge.
That partnership extended into the second tournament, which took place on Sept. 10, 2014. Money raised at the tournament will go toward studying resistance to male hormone-lowering therapies, the principal treatment for advanced prostate cancer, Alumkal said.
The Winterhawks decided to donate the funds to the Knight Cancer Institute after learning about the groundbreaking research being done by Tomasz Beer, M.D., F.A.C.P., deputy director of the Knight Cancer Institute, and Joshi Alumkal, M.D., who co-leads the OHSU Prostate Cancer Research Program with Beer. “It was a natural fit,” Gustafson said. “The Knight has so much to offer.”
Melanoma Walk raises $20,000 for Knight Cancer Challenge
When almost 300 walkers participated in the annual AIM for the CURE Melanoma Walk in Northwest Portland’s Wallace Park in May, they took steps toward the realization of a project more than eight years in the making.
The walk, organized by the not-for-profit organizations AIM at Melanoma and Oregon SolSurvivors and sponsored in part by the Knight Cancer Institute, raised $20,000 for the further development of the International Melanoma Tissue Bank Consortium. The consortium is a collaboration between the Knight Cancer Institute, California Pacific Medical Center, Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute.
The consortium’s goal is to collect melanoma tissue at its earliest stages and research those samples to better understand and detect early-stage melanoma, said Sancy Leachman, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Melanoma Research Program at the Knight Cancer Institute and chair of the OHSU Department of Dermatology.
AIM’s donation helps foster progress in advancing Knight Cancer’s goal of detecting cancer at its earliest stages, Leachman said. “It’s a sign, in my mind, that we’re making some real progress,” she said. “It’s a baby step toward a much bigger vision.”
Fundraising drive leaves mark on tattooed oncologist
When Gabrielle Meyers, M.D., was approached about taking part in the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's Oregon and Southwest Washington Woman of the Year fundraiser, the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute oncologist realized that she had an opportunity to honor her patients struggling with cancer and blood disorders. Even as Meyers imagined what the title would mean for her research and OHSU, she thought about the toll cancer takes on the body, the discomfort it causes and its impact on the patient's body image.
So Meyers opted to get a tattoo for every $25,000 raised as part of the campaign. "That was the idea behind the tattoo: To show that respect for the impacts of cancer," she said.
Tattoo at heart of creative fundraising campaign
The fundraising plan worked: Meyers raised more than $54,000, the most money among five Women of the Year candidates, winning the Woman of the Year competition at the organization's Gala of Hope event on June 21, 2014. In total, The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society's 17 Man, Woman, and Teen of the Year candidates raised $354,020 for the organization.
Meyers, who has been with the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute since 2005, didn't have a tattoo when she was invited to participate in the local chapter's Woman of the Year fundraising competition. But, inspired by enthusiastic coworkers and her relationships with resilient patients, Meyers opted to make a long-lasting statement that would honor those who have been diagnosed with various blood cancers.
Honoring patients with inventive design
The idea for a tattoo was born. After considering a few designs, she decided on a multi-colored, heart-shaped ribbon on her forearm and got the tattoo done at a local shop in late May. The ribbon's various colors reference different cancers and causes—the orange represents leukemia, the lime green represents lymphoma, the burgundy represents multiple myeloma and the red represents LLS. "It was a way to acknowledge and point out what it really means—the day-to-day struggles and the impacts on peoples' lives," she said. To drive the point home, she had the words "honor the brave" inscribed in the middle of the tattoo.
All funds raised by Meyers will count toward the $1 billion Knight Cancer Challenge. That money will then go toward an LLS-funded research project at the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute. "It's a challenge raising money," she said. "It takes a lot of time and effort. I've been lucky to work with so many wonderful people toward a worthy, life-changing cause."
School project leads second-grader to Knight Cancer Challenge
Shortly before the 2014 school year ended, Michael Gray—a second-grader at Hollydale Elementary School in Gresham, Ore.—was assigned to devise a plan on earning, spending and saving money. Then, at the conclusion of the three-week project, Michael and his classmates would give presentations on how they accomplished that goal and what they did with their earnings.
Given that his grandfather and great grandmother had recently battled cancer, Michael immediately decided to raise money for cancer research. He ultimately decided to donate what he earned to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute after viewing OneDown.org with his father, Matt. "It was easy for him to choose that as a cause," Matt said.
With help from his parents, Michael did yard work, recycled bottles and cans, and wrote a letter soliciting donations from his friends and family. "It was neat to see him really work hard and get a lot of satisfaction out of it," Matt said. "Second graders can get distracted, but he was really focused on this, and that was neat."
Michael initially hoped to raise $250. But after the final dollar was counted, he had raised $610, which will count toward the Knight Cancer Challenge. Naturally, Matt was a proud father. "That's the most special part," he said. "With something like cancer, everyone around the person dealing with cancer—including that person—they feel helpless. You want to do all you can in terms of support and comfort, but I think it's special that Michael thinks he can do something about it and is willing to do something about it."
Hoffman Construction employees dig deep
"A campaign is like building a building," said Wayne Drinkward, longtime OHSU supporter and president of Hoffman Construction Company. "You have a vision, but it doesn't work until you get the right people together and stick a shovel in the ground. So that's what I chose to do: create a challenge here that sticks a shovel in the ground and just start raising money."
Drinkward offered that shovel to his employees when he challenged them to raise $250,000 for the Knight Cancer Challenge. He put plenty of skin in the game too, pledging that the company would match that quarter million—and then he would match the $500,000 with a personal gift. The 174-employee Hoffman team didn't just meet Drinkward's target, they blew right past it. With the personal and company match, the company's gift totaled $1,446,328.
"I hope other businesses and owners rally their companies behind this in whatever form fits their culture—make it a broad-based Oregon thing and not just a few people, or expect that the money's going to come from elsewhere. Because once it builds momentum, it makes success a lot easier. I'm inspired to make that happen," said Drinkward.
The Oregon Community Foundation gives largest-ever discretionary grant
From left: Brian Druker, M.D., with OCF President Max Williams and OCF Board Chair Sue Miller
When Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, challenged Oregonians and the rest of the country to take a bold stand against cancer, The Oregon Community Foundation (OCF) boldly answered with a $1 million grant. The award, announced by the OCF board just two months after the Knights made their pledge, represents the largest discretionary grant in OCF's 40-year history.
"The Oregon Community Foundation's board of directors is excited to support and recognize the challenged posed by Phil and Penny Knight in the fight to cure cancer," said Max Williams, president and chief executive officer of OCF. "We are confident that philanthropists not only from Oregon, but from across the country, will rise to the challenge. The results of this effort will dramatically affect cancer research around the world."
Many OCF donors have been generous in their individual support of the OHSU Foundation over the years. "This grant signals our intention to honor those gifts by increasing their impact," said Williams.
What could be more "Oregon" than beer, wine and coffee? Curing cancer.
Wendell Bryant of Full Sail Brewing
Full Sail Brewing Company is an independent, employee-owned company that puts its hops where its heart is. Talented employee-brewers are invited to craft a special beer and then designate a worthy organization to receive a portion of the sales proceeds. Assistant Packaging Supervisor Wendell Bryant chose the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute to benefit from his winning brew, Vendell Veizen Weizen Bock.
AVA Roasteria has hosted a fundraising event benefitting the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute for three years running. Company owner, Beaverton community leader and cancer survivor Amy Saberiyan—along with her husband, Homayoon Haddad—created the annual Wine, Dine and Be Merry fundraiser as an acknowledgement of the care Amy received at OHSU, and also to support other patients during their cancer journeys.
Cliff Creek Cellars is owned by the Garvin family, native Oregonians with community roots as deep as the grapevine stock that thrives in their southern Oregon vineyard. When Dorothy, the family matriarch, was diagnosed with a rare and difficult-to-treat form of intestinal cancer seven years ago, her doctor sent her to OHSU. "She said she wanted me to have the very best," recalls Dorothy. Her experience inspired the family to support cancer research, and since 2009 they've donated 5 percent of sales from two of their popular wines to cancer research at OHSU.
Nike employees spread the word worldwide
Nike employees and friends at a recent supper club fundraiser in Beaverton, Ore.
Nike employees aren't just letting their company's co-founder do all the work. In February, they launched the Nike Meet Cancer Supper Club, a brilliantly simple fundraising opportunity that is uniting the global Nike community from Beaverton to Brazil. Employees provide the menu, the venue and the vibe. Catered dinners, virtual dinners, raffles of baked goods, pizza parties—anything goes. Co-workers, friends and family members are provided the platform to get together and donate to the Knight Cancer Challenge.
Supper Club hosts and guests are then sharing their enthusiasm through Twitter and Instagram: "Great people, great company, great cause…Doing good and having fun…Love what Nike is doing, creating strength through connections."
Kori Vyse couldn't agree more. "We wanted to find a way to channel the passion people have for a cause that has touched us all," said Vyse, a Nike executive, cancer survivor and advisory team member for the Nike Meet Cancer employee network. "The cool thing about this is that it's inclusive, it's accessible to everyone, regardless of where you live or how much you can contribute. We love that. It's also scalable: other organizations can work with OHSU to sponsor Supper Clubs. We then honor that we are stronger together. "
Dollars to doughnuts, these kids are with us
Students from West Hills Montessori School
Every penny counts in our fight against cancer – and a recent gift from students at Portland's West Hills Montessori School came in the form of dollar bills, rolled quarters, and loose change in a shoebox.
Five third-grade students raised $869 for the Knight Cancer Challenge one chilly morning in January by selling over 10 dozen donuts, coffee and lots of hot chocolate. Genna Bialobok rallied her friends to raise support for the challenge to honor the memory of her friend who died at the age of six from cancer.
The girls visited OHSU to present their shoebox of money and donned lab coats to tour Dr. Brian Druker's laboratory, where they asked many questions, tried their hand at pipetting and looked at cells under a microscope.
Second grader honors her grandfather – and everyone sick with cancer
Genevieve Olson Rocha (center) with John Holland, M.D. and Aaron Martin
Genevieve Olson Rocha, age 8, and her dad, Dino, her mom, Amy, and her brother, Nick, visited OHSU in March to present a check for $710 in support of the Knight Cancer Challenge. Genevieve raised $1,000 by making and selling approximately 100 rainbow bracelets to family and friends in honor of her grandpa, or Avô as she calls him (Avô is "grandfather" in Portuguese), who is undergoing cancer treatment at OHSU.
She is donating the remaining $290 to the American Cancer Society. When asked why she wanted to do this, Genevieve answered: "to help her grandpa and everyone sick with cancer." The family hadn't heard about the Knight Cancer challenge when Genevieve started her fundraiser. But Dino Rocha mentioned Genevieve's project to an OHSU nurse and joked, "now we just need to find a rich guy to match the gift." That's when he learned about Phil and Penny Knight's Challenge and, as luck would have it, there really is a guy to match the gift. Genevieve knows who Phil Knight is and is "super excited" that her gift will count toward the challenge.
Young actor takes on the role of a philanthropist
After watching a close family member's experience as a patient at the Knight Cancer Institute, eleven-year-old Olivia Gieselman decided to donate to OHSU the proceeds (so far more than $5,000) from her role in a TV commercial.
"I felt that I wanted to make a difference in other people's lives, big or small, and when I thought about someone from my own family flying out to see Dr. Druker for check-ups, I thought the Knight Cancer Institute would be a great place to donate the money," Olivia says.
Olivia understands how important her donation is: "Nothing makes a person happier than when someone is trying to help them. Every cent that is donated makes a difference."
Donations drive the search for an AML cure
Susan and Paxson Offield
Paxson Offield's recent $5 million gift to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute will be used to advance research on acute myeloid leukemia (AML). Over the past two years the Offield Family Foundation has given $550,000 to support Knight Cancer Institute Director Dr. Brian Druker, JELD-WEN Chair of Leukemia Research, and his leukemia research team.
Offield, a well-known and dedicated conservationist with strong ties to Catalina Island, says Phil and Penny Knight's challenge inspired him to make his most recent gift.
"There is no better institution for the care of a person with leukemia than the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute, and I can speak to that first hand," said Offield, who now lives in Michigan. "I have no doubt in my mind that the best chance to cure AML and all blood cancers will come from Dr. Druker and the team he has established at the Knight Cancer Institute."
Portlander donates Grimm location fee
Grimm star David Giuntoli with Ann Skoog's daughter, Audrey
Location scouts for NBC's Grimm discovered the perfect house for their "Mommy Dearest" episode: a Portland home with a giant weeping cherry tree owned by OHSU employee and longtime supporter Ann Skoog. NBC offered to pay Skoog's family to vacate the house for three days, putting them up at a hotel while the crew took over the block for late-night filming. Instead, Skoog asked the production company to tally the amount they would have paid for the location fee and donate the money to the OHSU Knight Cancer Institute.
"They were really surprised," Skoog said.
Skoog, who works for OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital, said her experience working for the cancer institute years ago has inspired her philanthropy, and she's become an active volunteer and donor. "The doctors, nurses, social workers – they're all still there. I know what good work they do." Since that time, she has encouraged her family foundation to give to pediatrics and cancer care at OHSU.
"Our doctors are the best," said Skoog. "You support the people you trust."