In my first two postings, I talked a lot about the process of fundraising, highlighting a partial list of characteristics that would allow an individual fundraiser or a fundraising team to be successful in generating gifts from the community.

But why do we do what we do? The standard response is often something along the lines of “to support the mission” of the organization or to “help fulfill a vital need”. While both true—and important—if you dig deeper, it really comes down to helping people. Or more poignantly in healthcare, it comes down to helping one person. I’d like to briefly share the story of John Barrows and his family.

John Barrows Brain Cancer WalkBefore his diagnosis, John was living a comfortable life, probably not to different from you or someone you know. He was married to his wife, Katie, and when not working at Microsoft, they spent their days raising their four young children. And then life changed instantly and dramatically. John was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the most aggressive form of brain cancer, in November 2008. At one of his routine weekly meeting with his boss, John’s eyes started jiggling back and forth and he suddenly fell out of his chair and on to the floor, and the last thing he remembered was his boss yelling, “Call 911!”. Suddenly thrust into a new world of surgery, brain scans, chemotherapy and an endless cycle of doctor’s appointments, John and his family put together an inspiring plan on how they would approach his cancer.. Supported by Katie and a large support group comprised of family and friends, they sought out Dr. Greg Foltz and and his team at The Ben & Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment. After having his tumor removed, John received expert, compassionate care at the Ivy Center for more than 2 years. Sadly, John passed away in early January, 2011.

I was fortunate to get to know John while he went through treatment at Swedish, and feel very lucky to have become friends with Katie and several of his family members. What inspired me most about John and the entire Barrows “team” was their ability to think of helping others while going through such a difficult and challenging time. In 2010, John agreed to be the Chair of the 3rd Annual Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. Under John’s leadership, the walk grew to more than 2000 participants and helped raise more than $430,000 to support brain cancer patients and their families throughout the region. To see an inspiring video/slideshow of the 2010 Brain Cancer Walk, please click on this link and us the password: nwmutual.

The success of the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk is yet another tribute to John’s character and leadership.

So why do we do what we do? To help people just like John Barrows who are diagnosed with brain cancer. Thanks to generous support from the community, more than $7.5 million has been raised in support of The Ben & Catherine Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment, with gifts going to support innovative research, new clinical trials to offer personalized treatment and integrative care to provide emotional and social support to patients and their families.

To learn more about this year’s Seattle Brain Cancer Walk on September 24th, please log on to

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