A big check, a beautiful child

Las Vegas — Some of the biggest names and biggest brands in home improvement packed a ballroom at Caesar’s Palace on Monday night for the Spirit of Life awards ceremony to support City of Hope.

The night culminated in the presentation of a large novelty check made out to the disease research facility to the tune of $1.3 million. Last minute generosity from the industry pushed the night’s total over $1.4 million.

The big names included The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Quikrete, and the night’s Spirit of Life honoree Brad Paulsen, president of HD Supply Facilities & Maintenance.

But the undeniable star of the gala event was a little girl who wasn’t even in attendance. Anna Olivia Healey died of cancer years earlier. But her story and her family inspired the event’s keynote speaker to dedicate her career to a cure for cancer. And the name of a promising drug – AOH1996 -- is named for Anna.

Anna Healey has inspired a promising new cancer drug.

The keynote speaker, the City of Hope research scientist Linda Malkas, told the story of meeting Anna’s family when the scientist was the Vera Bradley Chair of Oncology at Indiana University. The meeting changed the course of her research, and led her to City of Hope, where she is a professor and associate chair of Molecular & Cellular Biology at City of Hope National Medical Center.

Pointing to the exciting promise of precision medicine, she told the hardware and homebuilding audience: "We stand at the threshold of miracles. Because of you.”

The night’s speakers also included Paulsen and his former colleague at The Home Depot, Giles Bowman, last year’s Spirit of Life honoree. They and others leaned on phrases such as “visionary cancer breakthroughs,” “medical miracles,” and “hope.”

In his address, the 2020 honoree Paulsen shared how he felt lucky to work for a string of companies – including The Home Depot and HD Supply -- that emphasized giving back to their communities. And he thanked the audience for its “continued support of City of Hope and its life-saving efforts.” In that effort, “we are all team members,” he added.