Annual Newsletter

February 2021


Dear Friends,


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.  Over the years, the foundation has raised almost $5 million and spent more than $3.5 million on original programs to help seriously ill children. We plan to draw down our endowment, roughly $1.5 million, to fund these programs going forward.  


GBSF’s single largest expenditure ($82K annually) remains clown care at Yale New Haven Children’s Hospital, bringing smiles to young patients, their families and staff. After a tumultuous summer due to the pandemic, we are extremely pleased to report that our clowns are back at Yale three days each week.  Although our great friend, Dr. Sneakers (Liz Bolick), retired this past year, Dr. Chester Drawers (Leo Desilets), a GBSF clown since inception in 1997, still supervises the program under the “umbrella” of Healthy Humor, a nonprofit which replaced the financially distressed Big Apple Circus in 2017. Our original contract with HH expired in 2020 but we have renewed it through 2021, and, hopefully, beyond.


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.  We have provided a summary of their work here and have attached their 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.  Accordingly, Dr. Ryeom has expanded the scope of her research from children’s cancers to adult breast, stomach and lung malignancies.  We are excited to report that tests utilizing her lab’s mouse models have provided sufficient data to support a Phase 1 clinical trial of a new drug for stomach cancer.  Her lab is also investigating human lung cells to screen for drugs that will block SARS-CoV-2 infections there, a disastrous side effect of COVID-19.


In 2020, 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 work on rhabdoid tumors, generally fatal in children, has provided critical insights on mutations in the SWI/SNF gene complex which is now believed present in 25% of all cancers, both pediatric and adult.  This fifteen year effort culminated in the past year with FDA approval of Epizyme’s Tazemetostat; a Stage 1 clinical trial of another drug by Roche, the first ever for a pediatric-only condition; and FDA approval to utilize Homoharringtonine, an existing pharmaceutical, to treat rhabdoid-related cancers.  We heartily congratulate Charlie and his team on this trio of accomplishments – and look forward to many more.


Dr. Roberts’ success clearly merits further funding.  GBSF’s contribution represents roughly 10% of Dr. Roberts’ total budget; the remainder is largely supplied by NIH grants.  We would love to extend our fellowship again in 2022 but would welcome outside support.  Please let us know if you have an interest. 


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.  Although Garrett’s been gone for more than 25 years now, his words still ring true: “Sun’s up - time to play!”


Thank you,


Scott and Heidi Smith

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