BY JUDY CARMACK BROSS
“We wanted an event that everyone could attend,” share the clever co-chairs Pim Alley and Whitley Bouma Herbert on the Breakthrough Ball November 4 hosted by what was formerly known as the University of Chicago Cancer Research Foundation Woman’s Board.
Their idea was a brilliant benefit breakthrough for the newly renamed Breakthrough Board, featuring smaller in-person events at two elegant private clubs in Chicago and Lake Forest, and the opportunity to join virtually.
“It was two years in the making,” Alley says. “We knew because of COVID that we couldn’t plan our traditional big fall gala where we had 500 people in a ballroom and a party that went on for five or six hours. We’ve heard people are planning watch parties in their homes with friends as well, all opportunities to hear our story. Watch for some special surprises that night.”
Even in these more intimate and safe environments, glamorous treasures such as a lariat necklace of diamonds, rock crystals, and gold by presenting event sponsor Verdura, valued at $15,500, at auction that night remind us that this board knows how to plan one of the most tempting events in town for one of the most important causes. Linda Burns Coleman serves as President of The Breakthrough Board.
“The pandemic brought change to many endeavors, including how to raise support for cutting-edge cancer research at UChicago Medicine. Our evolved Breakthrough Board spent these past twenty months seeking strategic solutions,” Coleman explains. “Over 70 years ago, members of the Cancer Research Foundation created our original Women’s Board. We have now joined forces again to support our brilliant researchers and scientists at UChicago Medicine as they seek new cures and treatments for cancer. On November 4, we will re-emerge publicly as The Breakthrough Board: a more powerful and creative force than ever before.”
Herbert adds: “Our old name meant so much to us, but it was quite a mouthful. We took time during the pandemic to rebrand and formally align with the Cancer Research Foundation, an organization founded by Maurice Goldblatt, the same incredible man who created our board originally. His granddaughter, Zanna Goldblatt Nikitas, is CRF’s Board Chair. In a way we are coming home.”
She continues, “The Chicago Chapter of the Cancer Research Foundation has a nearly identical mission to ours: support cancer research exclusively at the UChicago Medicine. And because of our alignment, we can now share so many resources, including its fantastic and dedicated staff, contacts, and best practices. It really reflects our evolution as a board.”
“The Cancer Research Foundation is so pleased to be working with The Breakthrough Board. much like the CRF, its members have a long history supporting the kind of cancer science that can really be game changing. The energy and dedication that The Breakthrough Board members bring to this event are so exciting and needed, especially today when science really needs its best champions,” Zanna Goldblatt Nikitas says.
The co-chairs share that Ogilvy has been a top sponsor for the last 15 years: “They have been very generous in donating their services and helping with the re-branding. For example, we used to mail out very elegant invitations and for this event we have done it online, with the savings going to research,” Herbert says.
Both Alley and Herbert have very personal commitments to cancer research. Alley lost her mother-in-law to cancer and her mother is a breast cancer survivor. Herbert lost her father to cancer and speaks eloquently of her father in whose honor her many hours of volunteering for the board are given: “Over 11 years ago my father was fighting a rare form of cancer, ocular melanoma. We all had to travel to Philadelphia for treatment at that time. Through UChicago Medicine and their research, my hope is that people do not have to travel for treatments for rare forms of cancer, that we have the best treatments in the world here at home.
“We enable so many to start their research. Then the researchers are able to apply for larger grants to complete their work. It is fascinating at our board meetings to go through the very thorough allocation process and to hear our funding makes all the difference. Lately Pim and I have been calling it the ‘bring it’ benefit. We are so honored to bring this message of hope through research by re-structuring the event to reach people at home or in these smaller settings which feels right at this time.”
Many congratulations to The Breakthrough Board for bringing home the message of research breakthroughs and hope and for surpassing an earlier goal for the evening.
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