As most of you know, I spent the last year of my 50 state marathon journey raising money for the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center at Johns Hopkins University. This is where my Uncle Ron was treated and he chose this nonprofit organization to be the recipient of my fundraising efforts. They are doing amazing work there and were able to give him a great quality of life for more than 2 years after his initial diagnosis. They invited me to visit the Center when I was in the area for my 50 state marathon and I asked my Aunt June to join me.
Before I write about the trip, I want to say how helpful and supportive they were during the last year of my marathon journey. Unlike some large charities such as St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital, Dana Farber Cancer Center, etc. the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center doesn’t have any specific marathon team or program for “regular” people like me to fundraise for them, so they worked with me individually to support my efforts. In particular, the two people who were most central to my efforts were Dr. Ralph Hruban and Sandy Markowitz. Dr. Hruban is the Baxley Professor and Director of Pathology, and Professor of Oncology at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is currently the Director of the Sol Goldman Pancreatic Cancer Research Center which has received recognition for discovering many of the fundamental genetic changes that drive pancreatic cancer. He was also just named as one of the world’s most highly cited researchers in 2017; see this article for more information. Sandy is Dr. Hruban’s assistant and graciously tracked all of the donations made in honor/memory of my uncle. She sent me regular updates and answered any questions I had. She also organized the itinerary for my visit and sent me lots of helpful maps and information. Finally, she also greatly encouraged me for my final marathon and even apologized for not being able to make it to the race because she was out of town.
I heard from several people who donated about the thank you letter they received from Dr. Hruban after they made a donation. This letter was not a standard acknowledgement; Dr. Hruban wrote a personalized letter about my 50 state marathon journey and the efforts I was making to fundraise for the Center. I even had a couple of people send me a picture of his letter because they were so impressed by it. Not only did he write such a thoughtful letter, but he called me twice to check in with me and thank me for my efforts. He also invited me to the Center and organized lunch, a meeting with researchers, and a tour of the research facilities.
I knew that Dr. Hruban was an amazing man even before I met him. Yet upon meeting him I was even more impressed. He greeted me and my Aunt June with a hug and introduced himself as Ralph. Sandy had set up a wonderful catered lunch for us and we got a chance to meet with some of the top researchers who are helping to diagnose and fight pancreatic cancer. It was so interesting to hear about the work they are doing and the progress they are making. After lunch and a photo (see below), several of the doctors escorted Aunt June and me over to the research building. From there, Dr. Laura Wood showed us around the various research rooms. I can’t even begin to understand the complexity of their research, but you can see from the pictures they are using lots of high-tech equipment in their work.
Aunt June and I were so impressed with everything we saw and everyone we met. This was her first trip back there since Uncle Ron passed away and I am sure it was very hard for her. However, it was a very positive visit and she got a chance to visit with some of the nurses who had helped Uncle Ron (she did this on her own before we met up for lunch with Dr. Hruban). It was such a wonderful kick-off to my 50th state marathon weekend. I felt so uplifted to learn about the work they are doing there, and how the money I had raised would be put to good use. I wondered how “only” $8,000 could make a difference when they sometimes get grants much larger than that, but they explained that the smaller donations pay for the research that gets them the results they can use to campaign for the larger donations. That made sense to me, and I hope that everyone who donated, no matter how small the donation, knows that their money made a difference. There really is no overhead there and the donators will not be constantly bombarded with solicitations in the mail. Despite the huge difference they are making in the field of pancreatic cancer research, this is a relatively small operation in terms of administration as they want to dedicate most of their funds to the actual work of finding a cure!
If you would like to donate, it’s never too late. Just be sure to mention that your donation is in memory of Ronald Kiss. You can click here to learn more about donating. Thanks!