When 100 guests gathered for a reception and dinner at the Perkins + Will offices in downtown Dallas on Wednesday, February 20, they heard a remarkable story about the healing power of philanthropy. The occasion was the Philanthropic Leadership Awards presented by the Baylor Scott and White Dallas Foundation.
According to Foundation President Rowland K. (Robin) Robinson, this was the fifth time the organization has “recognized a meaningful gift” by honoring the donor’s money managers and tax and legal advisors. In the spotlight at the February event was Jeff York, whom Robin said had made a “multimillion-dollar” gift to the campaign for Baylor Scott and White’s planned Hope Lodge Dallas facility.
A partnership between Baylor and the American Cancer Society, the new Hope Lodge — to be located just southeast of Baylor’s Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center — will allow out-of-town cancer patients and their families to reside free of charge while patients undergo outpatient treatments at any healthcare provider in Dallas. The facility is being designed by Perkins + Will, an internationally known architectural firm.
The Leadership Awards went to York’s advisors Val Cronin, Kelly Gillette, Brian Cloud and Joe Nolan. At the reception prior to the dinner and formal presentation, Jeff — who was attending with his wife and daughter, Carmen York and Kathryn York — recalled the remarkable journey that led him to make the Hope Lodge gift.
The founder of Paycom DFW, Jeff said that he was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal/stomach cancer in April of 2015. He made his way for treatment to “a Houston hospital,” he recalled, where surgery seemed to be successful — except for the fact that “they couldn’t get to one lymph node.”
As a result, he had to return to the Houston facility for more chemotherapy and radiation, only to have a scan reveal the cancer’s recurrence, with 24 tumors in his abdomen. “I said to the oncologist, ‘What are we going to do to beat this?’ ” Jeff remembered. “And he said, ‘We don’t really beat this.’
Rattled, Jeff met with Dr. Mike Clark, a preventive medicine physician at Dallas’ Cooper Clinic. “You’ve got to get me out of Houston. I don’t want to die!” Jeff said to Mike. “Who’s the best doctor in the world to treat me?” Replied Clark: “I’ve got him!”
The physician Mike had in mind turned out to be Dr. A. David McCollum, an oncologist affiliated with Baylor University Medical Center and the Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center. David began treating Jeff with Herceptin, a chemotherapy drug for treating ailments including stomach and esophageal cancer. Within 60 days, Jeff recalls, his tumors disappeared. In 90 days, he had “an almost clean scan” and, in 180 days, his scan was “completely clean.”
While his treatments with this “miracle drug” are continuing, Jeff says, “I was healed at Sammons Center!” He adds that the Hope Lodge donation was suggested to him by Cynthia Krause, vice president of gift planning at the Baylor Scott and White Foundation.
“I run a sales organization of 500 people. I always stress to them the importance of their mental attitude,” Jeff goes on. Similarly, “my purpose [with the Hope Lodge gift] was to help other cancer patients be in the right frame of mind to win” their battles against the disease.
Mission accomplished, Jeff.
* Photo credit: Lara Bierner