Impressive Strides by Funds Against Cancer
Charitable Group, Having Raised $800,000 Already This Year, Is on $4 Million Track
July 28, 2008
PLYMOUTH, Mass. - The bewildered looks on the faces of young patients in the children's ward of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute were wrenching enough. For Frank Strauss, who had himself become a parent in 1995 to his first child, Nicole, only three months before, the helplessness etched on their parents' faces was far worse.
Having to walk through this scene every time he went to visit his mother, diagnosed with leukemia at the young age of 54, was devastating. Eventually, though, as Strauss' mother, Sandra, regained strength-she remains in remission today, as one in three adults who beats the disease-the ordeal became an inspiration.
Meet Frank Strauss, a principal with mutual fund operations firm Beacon Consulting Group and the indefatigable, effervescent founder of Mutual Funds Against Cancer.
With $800,000 already in the bank, MFAC is on track to raise an outstanding $1 million this year alone, and has pledged $4 million over the next five years to the Center for Applied Cancer Science at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Two of the most visible events of the organization, now in its 14th year, are the Wine & Spirits Extravaganza in November and the Expect Miracles Golf Classic in June. This year, 450 executives from more than 100 companies supported the golf tournament, held through the auspices of foundation sponsor Interactive Data Corp., on three separate courses at Pinehills Golf Club and Waverly Oaks in historic Plymouth, Mass. The first-place winners on each course were Beacon Consulting (on the Jones course), State Street Corp. (Nicklaus) and Spagnolo Gisness & Associates, Inc. (Waverly Oaks).
What has fueled the growing interest in and current 60% annual growth rate of Mutual Funds Against Cancer is not just an interest in fighting a disease that touches so many people's lives.
Certainly, the group provides a great opportunity to network with industry heavyweights, as several golfers at this summer's tournament admitted during the cocktails and awards dinner. The list of people who attend and support its events reads like a veritable Who's Who of executives from Boston and New York.
More importantly, there's the research and development work itself, according to participants. As investment management experts, they have firsthand knowledge of how much ammunition is needed to eventually win the fight against cancer.
This has been the message of many of the famous speakers at Mutual Funds Against Cancer's events, including Superbowl champion Joe Andruzzi who gave a keynote in June on how doctors at Dana-Farber helped him overcome Burkitt's lymphoma, a highly aggressive form of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma.
The work of the Dana-Farber is invaluable to thousands of patients who are properly diagnosed with-and beat-rare strains of cancer, Andruzzi told the audience, who rewarded him with a standing ovation. Seven-time Tour de France winner Lance Armstrong also testified to this fact via video on behalf of MFAC at the 2007 Institutional Investor Mutual Funds Awards dinner.
It is also at the Dana-Farber Institute that the important work of cancer drug research continues, with Strauss noting that it currently costs $900 million to bring a single new cancer drug to market, while only 5% of new drugs succeed. Instead of trying to raise this staggering sum of money, Mutual Funds Against Cancer is putting money raised toward the Center for Applied Cancer Science, which ultimately aims to develop "a more efficient research and development model that will provide tremendous leverage for each dollar invested," Strauss said.
Strauss readily admits that he is tremendously fortunate, in that his motivation for starting the organization did not stem from, as is sometimes the case, the death of someone close to him.
An avid golf player who holds Black Rock Country Club's longest hole-in-one at 202 yards, Strauss decided to turn what was then called the Strauss Open, a tournament for family and friends, into a fundraiser for cancer research. In its first year, the event raised $6,000 and concluded with "me flipping burgers on my back deck," Strauss said, with a laugh.
Strauss also recalls that he was in a good position to start the foundation since, as chief financial officer and treasurer at CGM Funds in Boston from 1992 until 2004, he had excellent industry contacts and vendors he might be able to depend on to help him in this new venture. In fact, State Street Corp. has funded MFAC all these years, and has since been joined by Capital Fulfillment Group, Citigroup, Deloitte, DST Systems, Interactive Data Corp., JPMorgan, PFPC, UBS Global Asset Management and many more.