The Mary Bird Perkins-Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Center today launched its Helping Hands online registry, marking the latest product of a donation that Performance Contractors CEO and local philanthropist Art Favre made to the center’s foundation four years ago.
The Helping Hands website allows cancer patients to invite friends and family members to help with essential but nonmedical-related tasks, such as providing them with transportation to and from treatments, mowing their lawn, taking their dog for a walk or grocery shopping—all of which the patient may have increased difficulty accomplishing due to receiving cancer care.
Specifically, the free registry lets patients create and post an online wish list of tasks they need fulfilled and invite people they know to sign up to offer support. The project is being funded by a $15,000 Favre Family Award for Innovation that the center’s cancer navigation and marketing departments won in 2019.
“They had to do some background work before they could roll out the website,” says Favre, who helps select the award winner each year. “This idea was unique in that it was submitted by people who work with cancer patients on a daily basis, and it’s based on a recurring problem they were seeing. It should be a life-changer for some patients.”
Favre, whose aunt died of cancer years ago, says he plans to donate more to the endowment in the near future, declining to go into specifics. He made the $1 million initial gift in 2016 as a way to power innovation at Mary Bird Perkins, a portion of which established the Favre Family Award for Innovation to help researchers and other medical professionals at the center launch startup initiatives, which are typically challenging to fund.
The award was developed as an internal competition where team members and physicians submit their ideas, and a committee of peers chooses the project with “the most promise and impact” as the winner, says Todd Stevens, president and CEO of Mary Bird Perkins. Over the past four years, the committee has received between eight and 10 applications each year.
“Young investigators who are just getting started in scientific careers need access to startup research funding early—and it doesn’t have to be a lot of money,” Stevens says. “The funding rate for federal grants is already really small, but smaller, locally funded grants like these help researchers prove their points and helps them down the line when they apply for larger, more competitive grants.”
Other grant winners include:
• 2017: Medical physicist Connel Chu for his project “BPAP for Radiation Therapy,” a reimagined technology that aids radiation oncologists in more precisely targeting tumors during treatments while avoiding healthy lung tissue and reducing side effects;
• 2018: Dietitian Vadel Shivers, in collaboration with the oncology support services department, for her project Taste, Saliva and Swallowing: Ingredients for Nutritional Success in Head and Neck Cancer, which aims to enhance oral nutrition and quality of life for head and neck cancer patients;
• 2020: Medical oncologist Dr. Vince Cataldo for his early detection investigation into identification of oropharyngeal cancer risk factors.