Skip to Main Content

Philanthropy During the COVID-19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic altered the world, with consequences that will be felt for many years to come. Because cancer does not stop for even a global pandemic, and neither does the need of cancer patients to get treatments and possible cures, the importance for continued philanthropy at Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center had never been more crucial. We would like to highlight some extraordinary ways that our partners showed up during our most challenging time to continue the life-saving work at Sylvester.

Virtual Tour Kicked off the Garden of Hope Campaign for The Pap Corps Champions for Cancer Research

The Pap Corps Garden of Hope Design Rendering
Photographic Rendering By Curtis + Rogers Design Studio

To provide comfort and serenity to cancer patients while supporting cancer research, The Pap Corps Champions for Cancer Research unveiled the first look at its eagerly anticipated Garden of Hope, which is slated to bloom at The Pap Corps Campus of Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center in Deerfield Beach. More than 240 people tuned in for an hour-long Zoom webinar on October 15, 2020 to get their first look at colorful renderings of the Garden created by the architectural firm of Curtis + Rogers Design Studio.

Designed to be a place of peaceful reflection for those fighting cancer, their families, and health care workers, the beautification project is planned to include three phases. Once the Garden of Hope is completed, work will begin in an area behind the building, by the lake, that will be known as the Park of Hope. A third phase, the Path of Hope, will be a walkway that will lead visitors from the Garden of Hope down to the lake area.

The Pap Corps leadership led viewers through a virtual walk through the garden, explaining that donors can support the Garden of Hope by purchasing multicolored bricks with personalized messages, as well as benches and plaques that will adorn the garden. All the proceeds from the campaign will support Sylvester’s research programs.

The idea for the Garden of Hope was first planted when the Deerfield Beach location was named for The Pap Corps in honor of its historic $50 million pledge to Sylvester in 2016. Since its founding nearly 70 years ago, the nonprofit group has donated more than $110 million to Sylvester. The Pap Corps leadership and members ceremoniously broke ground on The Garden of Hope in December. The project is slated for completion in Spring 2021.

Pap Corps Garden of Hope Groun breaking ceremony
From left, Rayna Becker, Susan Dinter, Beverly Berkowitz, Linda Moses, Stavroula Christodoulou and Stacia Anderson.

Kayaking for a Cause: SebastianStrong and Castaways Against Cancer Teamed Up for Pediatric Cancer Research

Castaways Against Cancer - Photo Credit Bob Sosa
Kayakers approach Bear Cut Bridge, Key Biscayne. Photo Credit: Bob Sosa

Every year, a group of committed paddlers set off on a week-long kayak expedition that spans 160 miles between Miami and Key West. In 2020, two local foundations joined forces and took to the open seas to raise funds and awareness for pediatric cancer research.

SebastianStrong—a nonprofit dedicated to the memory of Sebastian Ortiz, an exceptional and bright young student at Christopher Columbus High School who lost his battle to cancer—and Castaways Against Cancer—a Christopher Columbus-affiliated kayaking team that has raised funds for cancer for 21 years—set off on the 20/20 Perfect Vision Tour in June.

Sebastian’s father, Oscar Ortiz, founded SebastianStrong after losing his middle son in December 2016 to a rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. Witnessing his son’s painful journey, Ortiz is laser-focused on raising funds to help researchers find less toxic, more targeted treatments for children with cancer. An avid kayaker and tremendous athlete, events such as the kayak expedition were a natural fit for his mission.

Eric Pino, the captain of Castaways Against Cancer, was Sebastian’s cross-country coach at Columbus. He describes the Castaways as “a bunch of sea hippies,” who are devoted to supporting and honoring those who have fought, and those who continue to fight every day. Columbus teacher, Steve O’Brien, founded the group after his mother’s death and has since raised $1.2 million for cancer research.

The 20/20 Perfect Vision Tour kick-off was tempered by social distancing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but people sent good wishes via social media. Stephen D. Nimer, M.D., Director of Sylvester, inspired the group with a video message. Ortiz’s wife and their sons Oscar, 22, and Luke, 17, were part of the road crew assisting the kayakers.

Together, the organizations raised an impressive $100,000 to support the work of Nagi Ayad, Ph.D., co-director of Sylvester’s Brain Tumor Initiative. Dr. Ayad is seeking safe, effective therapies for medulloblastomas, the most common type of brain tumors in children. Their gift was matched dollar for dollar by Sylvester for a total research investment of $200,000.

Both organizations will continue with their plights to fight cancer and have committed to continue supporting Sylvester with their generous efforts.

Cancer Link Pivots to Continue their Fight Against Breast Cancer

Group photo at Cancer Link event
Cancer Link Council of Presidents from left: Ivette Martino Sarol, Diane Madden, Bonnie Sepe, Mary Rosenberg, Cheryl Ettelman, Marlene Berg, Barbara Berg, Susan Kaufman, Harriett Shapiro, and Norma Jean Abraham at the 2018 Cancer Link Luncheon 

Over thirty years ago, Marlene Berg founded Cancer Link with a small group of women to increase awareness of breast cancer and raise funds for research. Since then, the all-volunteer organization has raised over $3 million to support Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Since 1987, Cancer Link’s fundraising strategy has been primarily event focused. Through their vast influential social network, the organization garners an impressive amount of donations year after year through sponsorship, major annual luncheons, and several events with its various community partners.

After an extraordinarily successful golf tournament in February 2020 to benefit Sylvester in partnership with the Deering Bay Women’s Golf Association, Cancer Link’s fundraising events were abruptly cut short by COVID-19.

Driven by their dedication to their mission to combat breast cancer, these fearless fundraisers lead by Marlene Berg, and co-presidents, Diane Madden, and Mary Rosenberg, did not allow anything to stand in their way. In lieu of their highly anticipated Cancer Link Luncheon, they sent an appeal to their members and friends and raised an inspiring $34,000 during the pandemic.

Group photo at Cancer Link Event
Bonnie Sepe, Acelia Gonzalez, Mary Rosenberg, Cheryl Ettelman, Erin Hager, Mario Fauert, Susan Kaufman, Ivette Martino Sarol, Jean Messier, Barbara Berg, Norma Jean Abraham, Donna Lyons, Marlene Berg, Judy Rosenblum, Staria Petersen, Linda Leeds, Faye Koniver, Sondra Marcus, Melissa Horowitz, Wayne Haltiwanger, Patrice Gimenez, Kathy Sheeran, Ana Britti, Diane Madden, Dale Rochkind, Harriet Shapiro, and Laurie Landgrebe at the 2018 Cancer Link Luncheon.