We greatly appreciate your support of the Garrett B. Smith Foundation (GBSF) and want to provide you with a brief update. Heidi and I established the foundation in memory of our four-year-old son who passed away on January 30, 1995 after a brief struggle with cancer. The foundation has raised almost $5 million, spent more than $3 million on original programs that we have created to help seriously ill children, and has an endowment of roughly $1.5 million which we plan to draw down to fund our programs going forward.
GBSF’s single largest expenditure ($83k annually) remains clown care at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. This program is now under the direction of Healthy Humor (HH), a nonprofit which has replaced the financially distressed Big Apple Circus. HH currently operates at 15 children’s hospitals around the country. Dr. Sneakers (Liz Bolick) and Dr. Chester Drawers (Leo Desilets), GBSF clowns since our program’s inception in 1997, bring smiles to young patients, their families and hospital staff at Yale three days each week.
Our two GBSF research fellows continue to pioneer new cancer treatments. We started funding these doctors when they were young investigators. Both now run their own laboratories and have achieved international recognition for their discoveries. We have provided a summary of their work below and have attached more detailed reports for your review.
Thanks to a most generous lead gift by Peter Wright through the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, our fellowship in the laboratory of Dr. Sandra Ryeom at the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute at the University of Pennsylvania is now endowed in perpetuity. This year, Dr. Ryeom has applied her research in endothelial (blood vessel) growth specifically to breast cancer treatments, finding that traditional chemotherapy damages heart cells but not liver, lung or spleen cells. She is now investigating ways to prevent this damage and improve long-term outcomes for breast cancer survivors.
In 2018, we extended our support of Dr. Charles Roberts at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis on a rolling two year basis ($50K annually). His team’s molecular research led to a clinical trial of a drug from Epizyme that has delivered complete responses in some children who have relapsed, aggressive cancers with mutations in the SWI/SNF gene complex. Late last year, the FDA Oncology Drug Advisory Committee voted unanimously to support this approach for a class of aggressive sarcomas with similar gene mutations. Full FDA approval is expected in 2020. Building upon this progress, Dr. Roberts is pursuing expanded clinical trials at both Dana-Farber and St. Jude’s with drugs from Aileron Therapeutics and Roche. As many adult cancers also contain a SWI/SNF genetic defect, Dr. Roberts’ work may have much broader impact.
GBSF is going to renew our fellowship for Dr. Roberts in 2020, but may not do so after 2022. Our contribution represents roughly 10% of Dr. Roberts’ total budget; the remainder is largely supplied by NIH grants. Please let us know if you have an interest in supporting Dr. Roberts directly. His success clearly merits further funding.
Heidi and I are extremely proud of the accomplishments of the Garrett B. Smith Foundation. Our efforts remain a labor of love for our son and his memory. Once again, we thank you for your support.
Although Garrett’s been gone for more than 25 years now, his words still ring true: “Sun’s up - time to play!”
Scott and Heidi Smith