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 now raised almost $5 million, and, more important, has spent more than $3 million on original programs that we have created to help seriously ill children.
After a twenty year run, both as a fundraiser and a loving way to remember our son in the company of friends and family who knew him, we held the final Garrett golf outing in 2016. While the first Thursday in May will always be an emotional one for us, we chose to host a concluding celebration rather than allow the event to wither away. Fortunately, the foundation, bolstered by your continued donations, has a sufficient endowment to fund our programs for many years to come.
GBSF’s single largest expenditure remains clown care at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital. This program is now under the direction of Healthy Humor, 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, continue to 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.
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 endowed in perpetuity. Dr. Ryeom’s team has recently published its findings that blood vessel cells in the testes of young boys diagnosed with cancer can eventually support the growth of mature sperm. Since these youths become infertile after chemotherapy and radiation treatment, this breakthrough investigation offers the potential to restore their fertility later in life.
In 2018, we extended our support of Dr. Charles Roberts at St. Jude Children’s Hospital in Memphis on a rolling two year basis. Last year, 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. In collaboration with researchers at Harvard and MIT, Dr. Roberts recently discovered that the MDM2 gene is also critical for these killer cancers to thrive. After tests on mice in Dr. Roberts’ lab delivered extremely positive results, Aileron Therapeutics and Roche Pharmaceutical are now developing MDM2 inhibitor drugs to roll out in clinical trials in the near future. As many adult cancers also contain this genetic blueprint, Dr. Roberts’ work may have much broader impact.
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 24 years now, his words still ring true: “Sun’s up - time to play!”
Scott and Heidi Smith