When a cancer diagnosis is made, it’s not just the patient who can benefit from a helping hand and a supportive shoulder. Family members and caregivers need compassionate attention as well, and the St. Louis office of the American Cancer Society (ACS) is committed to providing it. Each year, the organization raises funding for important care programs, research, advocacy, caregiver services and education to give people an edge in the battle against cancer.
According to communications director Christine Winter, the tide is turning in a favorable direction. “Since 1991, the overall U.S. cancer death rate has declined by 27 percent, and more people are surviving than ever before,” she says. “Now, nearly 500 lives are saved each day. This is how we know our efforts are having a huge impact.”
To calculate its outreach, the local organization provides 18,500 complimentary stays for out-of-town patients and family each year at its Hope Lodge; more than 15,000 rides to and from medical appointments; support programs for 8,000 people in treatment; and a 24/7 cancer helpline. And currently, the organization is funding 16 local research grants totaling nearly $9 million. “A number of different subjects are being studied, like breast cancer and treatment disparities,” Winter says. Past ACS research successes include confirming the link between smoking and lung cancer, performing groundbreaking work in bone marrow transplantation, and gaining a greater understanding of the role of genetics in cancer.
Winter says Hope Lodge is a godsend for the families of patients in treatment at area medical centers. The 44-room facility on Lindell Boulevard provides free overnight accommodations, eliminating a common barrier to treatment. “The high cost of hotels sometimes prohibits people from making a potentially lifesaving trip to St. Louis,” Winter explains. “Hope Lodge removes that worry.” World Wide Technology CEO Jim Kavanaugh helps lead efforts to support and sustain the facility and its important services.
All of the organization’s life-affirming work is made possible by generous supporters and an angel army of staff and volunteers, says senior event manager Kathy Fritz. To raise critical funding each year, the chapter throws one of St. Louis’ most exciting parties, the Champions of Hope Gala. Peter Blumeyer, St. Louis president for UMB Bank, is chair of this year’s black-tie event scheduled for Nov. 9 at The Chase Park Plaza. Attendees will be treated to remarks from Emmy Award-winning actor and St. Louis native Sterling K. Brown, and the masquerade-themed evening will feature an auction and music from the dance band Vote for Pedro. Guests will have a chance to support Hope Lodge directly through a ‘raise the paddle’ portion of the auction. According to Fritz, the gala has raised more than $3.8 million since it was introduced four years ago.
The local organization’s work also is made possible by the society’s CEOs Against Cancer Missouri-St. Louis Chapter, which leads the gala effort each year. The group of area executives like Kavanaugh and Blumeyer feel a deep commitment to the cause and use their many connections to help further it. They also extend the effort at their own companies, encouraging wellness, awareness, volunteerism and more among employees. “We have been able to make a tremendous impact thanks to this powerful, influential group,” Winter says. “Our events, sponsors and donors fund our mission, and volunteers fuel it.”
Kavanaugh says he believes in the organization’s work because the disease hits close to home for so many people. “In the coming years, thousands of area patients will be told they have cancer, and their best chance for survival is here in St. Louis,” he notes. “Like so many, I’ve seen firsthand the effect a diagnosis has on individuals and loved ones. I’ve experienced the shock, anger, uncertainty and fear of being told that you or someone you love must undergo weeks, months, even years of treatment.” Blumeyer adds, “UMB is honored to support the critical mission of the American Cancer Society. We are committed to helping the CEOs Against Cancer St. Louis Chapter continue its incredible track record of hosting one of the largest ACS fundraisers in the country.”
Fiercely dedicated to fighting the disease on all fronts, the American Cancer Society St. Louis remains a key partner for patients and their families, according to Fritz. “We are with people throughout the treatment process, from start to finish and beyond,” she says. “We want them to know that hope and help are part of the journey.”
The American Cancer Society St. Louis presents its annual Champions of Hope Gala Nov. 9 at The Chase Park Plaza. Pictured on the cover: Peter Blumeyer and Jim Kavanaugh. For more information or to purchase tickets, call 314.286.8147 or visit championshopegala.org.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography
Pictured at top: Jim Kavanaugh, patient Dan Campbell and wife Debbie Campbell, Peter Blumeyer
Photo: Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton Photography