When many people in the insurance industry think of the City of Hope, they probably associate it with the well-publicized National Insurance Industry Council’s Spirit of Life Award gala each year that has raised millions and brought together industry professionals from all walks of life.
But there’s a lot more going on beside the annual event if you ask Ken Birkett, director of development of NIIC for the City of Hope.
NIIC consists of representatives from the property/casualty industry, law firms, brokers, accounting firms, reinsurers, executive placement firms and actuaries in the insurance industry.
According to Birkett, over the past 37 years NIIC has raised more than $27 million to help fund the Duarte, Calif.-based center’s research efforts.
“A lot of good things have come out of this group,” he said.
The group has raised money through a variety of events – though most notably the gala – that include golf and bowling tournaments, as well as other outings.
Nearly 100 insurance companies and firms are now involved with NIIC, which was started in 1978.
“We’ve just kind of grown that into a national presence,” Birkett said.
The Spirit of Life Award gala is NIIC’s key annual fundraising initiative. Each year a prominent honoree is selected for work done in their profession and for their philanthropic efforts. The honoree is given The Spirit of Life Award, which is City of Hope’s top honor.
This year’s honoree was Mike Miller, president and CEO of Scottsdale Insurance Co. The 2016 honoree is Christopher J. Swift, chairman and chief executive officer of The Hartford.
Past honorees read like a who’s who in the P/C industry.
One past honoree is Tony Markel, the name and the man behind building Markel Corp. into one of the largest P/C insurance companies in the U.S.
Markel became involved with City of Hope in 2006 after the NIIC honored him with its annual Spirit of Life Award.
Months after Markel received the award his wife Sue was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. While she was being treated in Virginia, the Markel’s also got help and advice from cancer experts at City of Hope. Sue Markel fought the disease for 13 months before dying in 2008, but the experience with City of Hope inspired Markel to establish the Markel/Friedman Fund for Research into Ovarian/Peritoneal Tumors at City of Hope.
The other name on the initiative is retired City of Hope CEO Michael A. Friedman, who is now an emeritus cancer center director.
Despite already reaching its goal, the initiative kick started by Markel will continue on, Birkett said.
“Tony’s agreed to fund it for next year for a million dollars the first year and then at least $500,000 to $1 million for every after while he’s alive,” Birkett said.
Several groups beside the insurance industry are involved in fundraising for City of Hope. Among the nearly two-dozen industries represented are groups from music and entertainment, office products, food, home improvement and hardware and furniture.
Before it became a research and treatment center for cancer, diabetes and other life-threatening diseases, City of Hope in the early 1900s began as a place to house people suffering from tuberculosis. It was originally named the Los Angeles Sanatorium and consisted of tents for patients and caregivers, but its nickname City of Hope stuck.
City of Hope operates on a budget of more than $1 billion per year, and employs roughly 4,000. More than 12,000 bone marrow and stem cell transplants have been performed by the facility, which holds more than 300 patents.
“The science and technology that we’ve created directly impacts over 100 million people worldwide annually,” Birkett said.
City of Hope Statistics
City of Hope is a cancer and diabetes research and treatment facility that gets if funding from charitable groups, such as the National Insurance Industry Council.
The Duarte, Calif.-based facility has some impressive accolades. Here are a few:
- In fiscal year 2014 fiscal year, City of Hope was awarded more than $72.9 million in research grants and received roughly $249.8 million in revenues from patented technologies.
- Numerous breakthrough cancer drugs, including Herceptin, Rituxan and Avastin, are based on technology pioneered by City of Hope.
- Millions of people with diabetes benefit from synthetic human insulin, developed through research conducted at City of Hope.
- The facility was a pioneer in bone marrow and stem cell transplants, and has performed more than 12,000 bone marrow and stem cell transplants.
- Surgeons at City of Hope have performed more than 10,000 robotic procedures for prostate, kidney, colon, liver, bladder, gynecologic, oral and other cancers.
- City of Hope holds more than 300 patents, and submits nearly 30 applications per year to the Food and Drug Administration for investigational new therapies.
- Scientists at the facility pioneered the application of blood stem cell transplants to treat patients with HIV- and AIDS-related lymphoma. Researchers there used a new form of gene therapy to achieve the first long-term persistence of anti-HIV genes in patients with AIDS-related lymphoma. This treatment ultimately may cure not only lymphoma, but also HIV/AIDS, and researchers are expanding their studies with a new clinical trial.
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