Not too long ago, we were tasked with creating a narrative that would motivate people to help fund pediatric cancer research at Fred Hutch. We opened with a live introduction by Dr. Jim Olson, speaking to the audience from an illuminated stage at the center of the room. He then introduced the video segment of our performance presentation.
Our video told the story of a remarkable little girl, who had passed after a battle with a brain tumor. Her legacy was a great one — The momentum of her short life spurred people into action, motivating her friends and family to continue the fight against cancer. She was a light. Sweet, smart, and full of potential, she embodied the precise potential pediatric cancer research strives to save.
Pediatric cancer research in Seattle is a blur of shared efforts: Fred Hutch, the University of Washington, and Seattle Children’s researchers and pediatricians, working together to make headway in a specialized field with next to no federal funding and nearly total reliance on philanthropic contributions. The Hutch’s work towards a cure is tireless. And all of it, every last moment—tearful, hopeful, victorious—is made possible by donors.
As our video presentation concluded, stage lights came on and local musician Noah Gundersen sang a heartfelt rendition of Train’s “Calling All Angels,” backed by large screens displaying images of Hutch’s past pediatric patients. Parents bearing framed photographs trimmed with fairy lights stood up from their tables and carried their “angels” to the front of the room.
With one family’s generous donation of $4 million in matching funds, our goal was to raise $8 million that evening, which would have equaled Fred Hutch’s largest raise. By the end of the night, the room had donated over $13.5 million, setting the record for the most money ever raised at a Fred Hutch event.