On May 11, more than 450 friends and supporters gathered for the annual Minds Matter Benefit Dinner to raise funds for the Northwestern Medicine Lou and Jean Malnati Brain Tumor Institute of the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. This year’s fundraiser at The Ritz-Carlton, Chicago, raised nearly $650,000 in support of the institute. Attendees honored the institute’s 10-year anniversary, celebrating breakthrough research, expertise, and treatment in the fight against brain and spinal cord tumors, as well as the recent naming of the institute by the Lou Malnati Cancer Research Foundation.
Under the leadership of co-directors James P. Chandler, MD, vice chair for clinical affairs and Lavin/Fates Professor of Neurological Surgery, and Roger Stupp, MD, chief of the Division of Neuro-oncology in the Ken and Ruth Davee Department of Neurology, the Malnati Brain Tumor Institute is a nationally recognized leader in the fight against brain and spinal cord tumors. The institute offers patients the most advanced clinical trial and treatment options available by uniting the world-class resources of the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated Lurie Cancer Center with the research and medical expertise of faculty and physicians at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
A Determined Philanthropic Community
Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated writer, director, producer, and actor Bonnie Hunt served as master of ceremonies for the 2018 Minds Matter Benefit Dinner, paying homage to the same role she played 10 years ago at the inaugural event. One of Chicago’s own, Ms. Hunt started her career at The Second City while simultaneously working as an oncology nurse at Northwestern Memorial Hospital.
“Aging is truly a privilege. It is a reminder that we’ve had more time with our loved ones,” said Ms. Hunt, whose brother-in-law Bryan was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2008 and sought treatment at the Malnati Brain Tumor Institute. Bryan joined in the celebration at this year’s Minds Matter fundraiser.
“I cannot thank the team enough for the care and compassion our entire family received,” said Ms. Hunt, recognizing especially founding institute co-director Jeffrey J. Raizer, MD, adjunct professor of Neurology and Medicine at Feinberg.
This year’s Minds Matter event committee was chaired by Mary C. Dempsey, whose husband, Kevin R. Hitzeman, is a brain tumor survivor who received his care through the Malnati Brain Tumor Institute. The couple has been supporting the institute since its inception.
“Ten years ago, we began with a small team of committed supporters who recognized a special need and vision,” said Ms. Dempsey. “Those individuals provided the backing and the support that have brought these ideas to fruition today, and every donor that has given since then has had an impact on our shared success. Thank you all for your support.”
A Transformational Gift for the Future of the Institute
“Our family has been raising this money for 47 years, and we always wanted it to go to Northwestern. We wanted to support a place where the people we love can go and receive the very best care,” shared Jean Malnati Miller.
The Malnati family’s tradition of philanthropy traces back to 1971, when Jean Malnati Miller and her first husband, the late Lou Malnati, opened their first Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria in Lincolnwood, Illinois. They initially raised money for scholarships, but later directed their philanthropy toward Northwestern after Lou Malnati received care there. After he passed away in 1978, Jean and the couple’s two sons, Marc and Rick, made their first gift to Northwestern Memorial Foundation. Two years later, the family established the Lou Malnati Cancer Research Foundation, which has continued to support oncology research and nursing professional education initiatives in cancer at Northwestern for decades.
“We are in it for the long haul,” said Marc Malnati, who serves as co-chair of the Lou Malnati Cancer Research Foundation. “We have the right team assembled to make some significant breakthroughs in the fight against brain and spinal cord tumors.”