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Sunderland Foundation makes $1 million gift for cancer research

December 7, 2009

A new fundraising council will help The University of Kansas Cancer Center in its quest to achieve designation by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

Cancer Funding Partners is a volunteer council uniting business and civic leaders from the Kansas City and Wichita areas to generate support among their peers for the Cancer Center.

Fundraising by the council is already off to a good start, thanks in part to a $1 million gift to the Cancer Center from the Sunderland Foundation.

“KU’s top research priority is earning NCI designation for the cancer center,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little. “Support from the Sunderlands and this council reinforce how our research into cancer treatments and cures speaks to families everywhere. We are heartened to see committed people jump on board.”

Kent Sunderland, Sunderland Foundation president, said this gift expresses confidence in KU’s leadership and in the belief that NCI designation can be achieved.

“We see NCI designation and the KU Cancer Center as being the next major civic focus in the Kansas City and Wichita area in terms of funding it and achieving a world-class cancer center here in the metropolitan area,” Sunderland said. His brother, Charlie Sunderland, is CEO of Ash Grove Cement Co.

Charlie Sunderland chairs the volunteer Cancer Funding Partners council. As a cancer survivor, he is aware of challenges cancer patients face when they have to travel long distances for treatment. Both he, and his father, before him, had that experience. “We were fortunate — we could afford to travel out of state for treatment,” Sunderland said. “It’s important to bring the same level of quality care to Kansas City for people who don’t have the resources to do that.”

Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation and a council member, said the potential economic significance of NCI designation cannot be overstated. Fundraising by the Cancer Funding Partners is critical to making NCI designation a reality, he said: “The Cancer Funding Partners will facilitate discussion among Kansas City’s and Wichita’s business, civic, and philanthropic leaders that will make this important effort a reality.”

Roy A. Jensen, MD, director of The University of Kansas Cancer Center, described the level of commitment from this group and their support for efforts to achieve NCI designation for the region as extraordinary: “With the support of advocates like the Cancer Funding Partners, our dream of bringing access to cutting-edge treatments to this region is closer to becoming a reality.”

Members of Cancer Funding Partners include Barbara Allen, director of the Driven to Cure Foundation and former Kansas State senator; Jill Docking, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents; David Frantze, partner at Stinson Morrison Hecker, LLP; Greg Graves, CEO of Burns & McDonnell; Bill Hall, president of the Hall Family Foundation; Drue Jennings, senior counsel for Polsinelli Shugart, LLP; Mark Killen, chief marketing officer of American Century Investments; Floriene Lieberman, community advocate; Stephen Miller, partner of Miller Schirger, LLC; Gary Sherrer, Midwest Cancer Alliance Partners Advisory Board chair and vice chair of the Kansas Board of Regents; Anne St. Peter, founder of Global Prairie and immediate past chair of the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce; and Charlie Sunderland, CEO of Ash Grove Cement Company.

The Council is a sub-group of the Advancement Board, an 80-member advisory group that represents the University of Kansas Medical Center, The University of Kansas Hospital and Kansas University Physicians Inc. The board works to develop community and political support for the academic medical center and to bolster philanthropic efforts for capital, research and program needs.

The gift will be managed by KU Endowment, the independent, nonprofit organization serving as the official fundraising and fund-management foundation for KU.

The University of Kansas Cancer Center includes cancer research and healthcare professionals associated with the University of Kansas Medical Center and The University of Kansas Hospital in Kansas City, the University of Kansas in Lawrence, the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Wichita, and the members of the Midwest Cancer Alliance Partners Advisory Board and Clinical Trials Network.

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December 7, 2009
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Michelle Keller
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