Stellar Center: iLLUMINATION Gala
iLLUMINATION Gala co-chair Bill Koman knows how high the stakes are: Koman is himself a two-time cancer survivor. After experiencing firsthand the care that Siteman Cancer Center provided, he and his wife Amy established the Cancer Frontier Fund and helped organize the first illumination event to support it. “We saw an opportunity to build something that would bring our community together in the fight against cancer and hopefully would grow into a substantial pipeline of funding for the cancer research that is needed today,” Koman says. The Cancer Frontier Fund helps researchers at The Alvin J. Siteman Cancer Center at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine accelerate breakthroughs in treatment. Siteman is one of the largest cancer centers in the United States, internationally recognized for advances in cancer research, treatment and prevention. It provides ongoing care to about 40,000 people every year.
“This is a devastating disease, and it doesn’t discriminate,” says St. Louis philanthropist and event co-chair Tom Hillman. Hillman has co-chaired the gala with wife Jennifer in the past and returns because of the real breakthroughs he believes are possible with enough funding over the next 10 years. Since its beginnings, illumination Gala has raised more than $19 million. Last year alone—through ticket sales, sponsorship, a live auction andFund-A-Cure (an on-the-spot pledge of support)—the event raised a record-breaking $3 million. “The more the community is aware of the great, groundbreaking work being done [at Siteman], the more resources can be allocated to it,” Hillman says.
Siteman director Dr. Tim Eberlein says, “Donor support has allowed our researchers to think outside the box and gives us the chance to conduct the vital research necessary to get us to the next level. Without this support, cancer treatments stand still. Progress stalls, and hope withers for countless families. Our patients are counting on us, so we must keep life-changing cancer research moving forward.” Eberlein adds that research in areas such as breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and leukemia are changing the face of care and paving the way for even larger projects.
In 2016, for example, he says Siteman researchers leveraged their groundbreaking work to receive a $10.4 million grant from the National Cancer Institute to develop new treatments for pancreatic cancer. “That is going to make a tremendous impact on this devastating disease,” Eberlein says.
This year’s gala takes place June 3 at The Ritz-Carlton. Hillman says it is the single largest fundraising event in the city and is sold out every time. Honorary chairs this year are Paula and Rodger Riney, who are also Visionary sponsors at the $500,000 level.
“The support of our community is extraordinary,” Hillman says. “Siteman Cancer Center puts St. Louis on the world map as far as cancer treatment and research, and we are so grateful for that incredible generosity.” Siteman treats nearly 9,000 newly diagnosed patients each year and provides patients access to nearly 500 therapeutic clinical trials that offer new treatments not widely available at other cancer centers.
The iLLUMINATION Gala takes place June 3 at the Ritz-Carlton. The event begins with cocktails at 6:30 p.m. Proceeds support the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s Cancer Frontier Fund to benefit Siteman Cancer Center. Pictured on the cover: iLLUMINATION co-chairs Jennifer and Tom Hillman, and Amy and Bill Koman. For tickets and information, contact Kris Marino at 314.286.0602 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit illuminationgala.org.
Cover design by Julie Streiler | Cover photo by Colin Miller of Strauss Peyton
Photos courtesy of the Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital