Doernbecher: Credit Unions Among Most Generous Contributors to Knight Cancer Challenge

Hope the therapy dog, who helps children recover from illnesses and treatments, visited the Ambassador Advisory Group meeting.

Oregon Health and Science University’s  (OHSU) ambitious $1 billion campaign to “end cancer as we know it” is on track — thanks to generous donations closing in on matching a $500 million dollar pledge from Nike co-founder Phil Knight and his wife, Penny. So far, $1.4 million came from Credit Unions for Kids.

Now the national credit union movement’s “charity of choice,” Credit Unions for Kids has raised over $12 million for Doernbecher since it was founded in 1986 by a group of Oregon and Southwest Washington credit unions.

The credit unions in Doernbecher’s region are currently earmarking their fundraising toward a $3 million endowment for clinical trials in pediatric cancer. An Ambassador Advisory Group led by regional credit union leaders recently met for a briefing on the legacy their fundraising has created, and what it will do to ensure a brighter future specifically for young cancer patients.

“You’re one of the most generous donors to the Knight Challenge,” said Jim Ervin, executive director of the Doernbecher Foundation.

Dr. Dana Braner, interim chair, department of pediatrics, took a deep dive into how fundraising supports all of the hospital’s top priorities: care of sick children, research to identify life-saving treatments, teaching medical professionals to provide the best children’s care possible, and advocacy for children. Dr. Braner shared examples of success fighting cancer — acute lymphocytic leukemia in particular — which has seen its survival rate increase from 50 percent to 95 percent over the last 25 years.

“We want to get to 100 percent,” said Braner.

Indeed, OHSU’s Dr. Brian Druker led a team that proved a drug called Gleevec should shut down cancer cells without harming healthy cells, and Doernbecher was the first hospital to offer a clinical trial for children.

Druker has a vision to change the world, Dr. Braner said, and “the world he will change will be inhabited by the kids we are caring for today.”

The region’s fundraising success has been driven by credit union events such as annual wine auctions, motorcycle rallies, celebrity golf tournaments, jeans days, bake sales and wine river cruises. Several marquis events are planned for mid-late summer. Details coming soon in Anthem.

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790,

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