The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) annual Washington, D.C. Leukemia Ball is a little more than a month away. A new series, featuring leaders of the organization, can be found on WashingtonExec in the coming weeks. Today’s interview is with Jim Davis, Executive Vice President, General Council and Secretary of the Human Genome Sciences and Co-Chairman of the 2012 Leukemia Ball.
Davis, a survivor of CML (Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia), discussed with WashingtonExec his favorite aspects of the Leukemia Ball and fundraising goals for this year. WashingtonExec also asked Davis what advice he had for people currently battling the disease as well as how he would describe the underlying message of the Ball.
WashingtonExec: What made you want to become involved with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society? What is your history of being involved with the organization?
Jim Davis: My involvement with the organization began about eleven years ago. I first went to the Leukemia Ball in 2001 with my wife for a company table. That was the year that Secretary Tommy Thompson of Health and Human Services announced that a new drug was going to be approved for a type of Leukemia called CML (Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia). The drug was called Gleevec. I remember thinking about how this was remarkable, the Secretary of HHS came to the Leukemia Ball to announce this new drug and that this new drug was going to have a profound effect on patients. Remarkably about three or four years later I was diagnosed with CML and I am currently on Gleevec. Gleevec has made the difference to me between being alive and not being alive. After I had been on Gleevec for about two years I decided it was time to get involved with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. I am now actually a member of the Board of Directors of the National Society. I serve on a number of their research committees and help direct how they fund research.
There are a lot of charity events that you go to in DC – a lot that you feel like you have to go to. This is one of the few that I really want to go to.
WashingtonExec: What is your favorite part of the Leukemia Ball?
Jim Davis: I would have to say that my favorite part about the Leukemia Ball is that it is a fun event. There are a lot of charity events that you go to in DC – a lot that you feel like you have to go to. This is one of the few that I really want to go to. The entertainment is fantastic. This year we are going to have Sinbad who is a fantastic comedian and we are going to have music by Foreigner.
WashingtonExec: What is your fundraising goal for this year?
Jim Davis: We have raised over $42 million since 1988. Our goal this year is well over $3 million.
WashingtonExec: Are you on track to meet that goal?
Jim Davis: We are on track but we still have a lot of money to raise. We are still looking for people to buy tables and come to the Ball. It is a tough economic time right now for everyone but there are some organizations and some events that are worth the commitment of time and money and LLS is one of those.
WashingtonExec: Where can people find tickets for the event?
WashingtonExec: If you could give advice to anyone who is currently battling leukemia what would it be?
Jim Davis: My advice to people who are battling leukemia would be not to give up hope; there are tremendous opportunities out there for cures or for treatments. There are also a lot of resources that The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society can give to patients to help them understand their disease and the treatments that are available. I would encourage them to get in touch with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and make sure that they explore all of the new treatment options that are available.
Despite all of the great research we’ve done, every ten minutes somebody still dies from a blood cancer. We need to do a lot more to help patients.
WashingtonExec: The Leukemia Ball has a silent auction. Is there anything you are particularly excited about this year?
Jim Davis: It is a wide variety; from tickets to the Redskins or the Capitals to fantastic vacation resorts – golf opportunities in Scotland. There are all sorts of packages to resorts so there is opportunity to get a lot of great items and at the same time contribute to cancer research.
WashingtonExec: What do you believe the underlying message of the Leukemia Ball is?
Jim Davis: Last year LLS invested over $75 million in research with money raised across the country. Blood cancers are the leading causes of death among children and young adults under the age of 20 but it is also a disease that strikes people in middle age and later in life. Despite all of the great research we’ve done, every ten minutes somebody still dies from a blood cancer. We need to do a lot more to help patients.