The annual Leukemia Ball is one of the largest—and most popular charity events in the Washington, DC area. It has raised more than $52 million for the National Capital Area Chapter of LLS since it began in 1988. This year, C.E. Andrews, MorganFranklin CEO and volunteer for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society since the first Ball, will receive the prestigious James L. Eichberg Lifetime Achievement Award. He offers insight on his involvement with LLS for the past 29 years and how the funds raised make an impact on people’s lives.
WashingtonExec: Could you tell us a little bit more about the process of receiving your Lifetime Achievement Award? How did you learn about this recognition?
C.E. Andrews: This is not something I was seeking or campaigning for—quite the opposite. LLS’s leadership has a knack for suggesting things in such a way that you can never say no. This award was just like that.
LLS National Capital Chapter Executive Director Beth Gorman gently asked me to consider accepting the award. The last thing in the world that I have any desire for is public recognition for my community involvement, and initially I was not comfortable with the idea. Whenever I become involved in something for the community, whether it is for The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) or another organization, I do it because I believe it’s the right thing to do. But they explained why they wanted to nominate me and, after reflecting on this for a while, I finally agreed to it.
I love LLS and I love the things I’ve been able to do to help the organization. The purpose of the award is right on point.
Jim Eichberg, for whom the award is named, was a great guy and a tremendous contributor to LLS over many years. He not only gave generously to LLS, but he inspired others to do the same. He successfully increased the profile of the organization and its mission to develop life-saving therapies for blood cancer patients.
So for the fact that this award honors Jim Eichberg, I wholeheartedly embrace the award. I’m sure what I’ve done pales in comparison to what he did through the years for LLS and I am extremely honored to be receiving this award that bears his name.
WashingtonExec: Can you give us an overview of why you think corporate citizenship is important and how it contributes to the success of your company and the other organizations you have led?
C.E. Andrews: In my view, corporate citizenship is an extension of individual citizenship. I think we all have a responsibility to help make the world and our communities better places. I see that happening in so many ways. Individuals, teams, and companies are involved in organizations such as LLS that help to improve people’s lives.
So I don’t separate being a good citizen as an individual from being a good citizen as a business. For me, as the leader of a company, I have the responsibility to make sure we do our best individually and collectively to serve the greater good. We all have opportunities and responsibilities to make our communities better. Every company does—and every individual does—and every organization I’ve been a part of has embraced that.
I believe I learned about the importance of supporting the community during my years at Arthur Andersen. We were extremely committed to the holistic view of the community we lived in, and we were encouraged to do things to support it.
My other significant experience with giving back was at Sallie Mae, where we did the same thing in a big way.
Here at MorganFranklin I certainly encourage that, but the spirit and culture of what I just described were already present before I joined the team. I hope I have nurtured it and maybe made it bigger than ever. That is the culture I am attracted to. It has existed everywhere I have been and it’s extremely important to me.
WashingtonExec: How will the funds at the Leukemia Ball be used? Will they go to a local initiative or broader research? Can you give us a little insight on that?
C.E. Andrews: The monies raised by our local chapter, through the Ball and in other ways, support services and assistance to local patients as well as national and local medical research. It’s very important to support patients and their families in our communities and to fund the research to find blood cancer cures.
In terms of impact, each dollar invested in LLS delivers a phenomenal return on investment, especially for research. I’ve been involved with LLS to some extent since 1988 – for 28 years – and the progress we’ve made in that time is staggering. The research LLS supports into blood diseases has progressed faster than anything I’m aware of and has made a measurable difference in people’s lives. That’s why I feel good about it.
WashingtonExec: You’ve talked about how you’ve been with the organization for a long time. Could you talk about some of your proudest accomplishments or what you are most looking forward to this year for the Ball?
C.E. Andrews: My original involvement was at Arthur Andersen. We were actually involved from the very beginning, from the very first Leukemia Ball. It started as an event that the accounting firms in the D.C. metro area supported and led. Now many types of businesses are involved, as well as individuals from all walks of life.
The revenue we raised, the size of our crowd, and the nature of the first event were a fraction of what they are today, but I am very gratified to have been involved with one of the founding organizations for the Leukemia Ball and to help it grow to what it is today.
I think the Leukemia Ball is the greatest example in our community of sustained success—and raising the bar each year—to provide financial resources to an extremely important cause. To this day, I truly believe it is the best event in this region. Every year it is a challenge to make the Ball better than the year before, and the local LLS team succeeds in doing that.
I have participated on the executive committee for the Ball for a number of years. There are two co-chairs—one year you serve as the No. 2 and the next year you are the lead chairman of the Ball. I served the two-year co-chair “tour of duty” a few years ago and I have stayed involved ever since.
The resources generated from the Ball are extraordinary. Altogether, I believe LLS has invested more than $1 billion to help fund research leading to improved diagnosis and therapies related to blood cancers.
Come March 12th we will walk away saying, “You know what, this is the best one ever. It is the best financial success ever. It’s the best evening ever. The way we recognize those who have been affected by these awful blood cancers is better than ever.”
Each year, the organization successfully steps it up and people walk away saying they will come back again next year, and that this event was better than any of the other ones they have attended. The people who attend the Ball say they have so much respect for the cause and the progress that is being made toward finding a cure. It is a great event.
WashingtonExec: Those are all of the questions that I have for you. Is there anything else you would like to discuss?
C.E. Andrews: I just want to talk a little bit about the bigger picture and highlight the impact we are making.
For example, 30 years ago, childhood leukemia was essentially a death sentence. Today, through the research that has been done and the progress that has been made, this is no longer the case. The percentage of cases of childhood leukemia has flipped and in large measure it is now curable, with survival rates of 91% for children diagnosed with the most common form of leukemia. That is almost unheard of when it comes to any kind of disease, particularly cancer research.
There are still so many forms of blood cancer that afflict countless people nationwide. One of the things I’ve been working on recently is fundraising for acute myeloid leukemia (AML), a type of leukemia that is still very deadly. Unfortunately, through the years, not much progress has been made for this disease.
Now, however, we believe we are on the cusp of some research that is going to dramatically change that. That is very exciting! This is an example of not just helping this chapter, but being a part of the national effort to fund research for other critical blood diseases. I’m actively involved in this and I’m proud to say that since 2015, we’ve raised $1 million for AML research.
Dr. Brian Druker is the head of that research team. We have worked with him before on other successful initiatives, such as chronic myeloid leukemia (CML). His research on CML led to the development of dramatic improvements in treatment options. We have great confidence in Dr. Druker and believe we will have positive stories related to AML in the not too distant future.
The motivation for many of us is that blood cancer is a terrible disease that affects countless people. The importance of any of these stories, or of the Ball, is to focus on our mission and make real progress to defeat blood cancers. I for one believe we will reach that goal.