Rybacki Memorial Golf Tournament Funds at Work

This year, 2019, marks the 26th annual Rybacki Memorial Golf Tournament. The Tournament raises funds for the world famous Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Massachusetts. We interviewed Josh Belowich at the Jimmy Fund, which is the events and fundraising arm of the Cancer Institute, to learn how our donations are put to work. This is the first of two interviews profiling the tireless and enthusiastic team at Dana-Farber.

Q: What makes Dana-Farber so special?

Josh: The Jimmy Fund, which supports Dana Farber, is unique amongst cancer charities in that it relies heavily on grassroots fundraising. Our organization runs over 700 events a year and around 160 of these are golf tournaments like the Rybacki Memorial. We are probably best known the Boston Bike-a-thon. In 2018, with the help of participants and sponsors we raised $56million for the Institute. Dana- Farber is a sizable operation. We have 4000 employees and some 38,000 patients will receive treatment from our expert team. Last year, the institute ran 830 clinical trials.

Q: Where did the Jimmy Fund name come from?

Josh: The Jimmy Fund is so called because the initiative was born out of the experience of a young patient, who was nicknamed “Jimmy” for the sake of privacy. Jimmy was being treated by Dr Sidney Farber of Dana-Farber fame. Dr. Farber was a big supporter of the then Boston baseball team called the Boston Breeze. Dr. Farber wanted to raise funds to put a tv into the ward where Jimmy was being treated, which sparked a telethon. From these small-scale beginnings, a long-standing legacy of fundraising was established. After the demise of the Boston Breeze, the Jimmy Fund was adopted by the Red Sox. In fact, this affiliation between the Fund and the Red Sox has existed since 1953, which makes it the most durable charitable relationship between a cancer hospital and a sports team in the history of the U.S.

Q: What is the Dana-Farber Institute best known for?

Josh: The Dana-Farber Institute focuses on treating adult and pediatric cancer patients. Our hospital is renowned for its holistic approach to beating cancer. While many places may claim they are holistic, Dana-Farber stands out amongst its peers all over the country. Our doctors divide their time equally between research and patient care.  Our experts not only walk the wards caring for patients but they will also spend fifty percent of their days in their research labs. We like this system because it creates a continuous feedback loop for our doctors of treating patients, working on breakthrough research, conducting clinical trials and gathering bedside metrics. Dana-Farber doctors are not only clinical physicians but they are also research scientists.

Q: How do charitable funds assist the Institute?

Josh: We pride ourselves on treating each patient holistically and as an individual. At Dana-Farber we adopt a pillar approach to patient support and offer a total package of patient care. Funds from charitable initiatives often help provide the additional activities and support that improve the quality of life and the holistic experience that we can provide our patients. This approach is what sets Dana-Farber apart; we cater not only to a patient’s physical well-being, but also to their emotional and psycho-social well-being. Indeed, we don’t stop there. If the patient needs it then we also provide support for their caregivers and support right into their community. We will do whatever it takes to make the patient more comfortable. We don’t just drop the patient off at home after they’ve left the ward and walk away. We know from our results that it is important to continue with the hand holding and aftercare up right up to remission or as long as needed. This may mean we need to be around for them up to two or three years after the patient has been discharged.

Q: Where will the 2018 Rybacki Memorial funds be spent?

Josh:  In recent years Larry Rybacki requested that we assign funds directly to our research activities. Raising funds for our research activities is critical for the Institute. We need money for basic research activity, which may sound vanilla, but it is an incredibly important part of all research activity in the current research climate. Research programs these days are in a Catch-22 situation- in terms of funding. A scientist may have a breakthrough research idea, but they can only get government funding once they have proof of concept and they can’t get funding to prove their concept until they have some clinical evidence to support their hypothesis. For this reason, donations and funding from tournaments like the Rybacki Memorial are essential, because they are like seed funds; they get the research over that initial hump and out into the mainstream. Fundraising initiatives have kick-started many new research programs at Dana-Farber. These funds are also used to support clinical trials and community programs, such as our mammography vans and even sunscreen dispensers on beaches in the summer. If we are not seeing patients at the hospital because we are supporting preventative educational programs, then we consider that a result.

To learn more about the Rybacki Memorial Golf Tournament, please contact Cindy Dayotas at cdayotas@sigmaco.com