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Sammamish non-profit looks back on groundbreaking year
Actress Jean Smart, whose sister has been diagnosed with Glioblastoma brain cancer, joined the board of the Chris Elliot Fund in 2009. Pictured here at the CEF Gala in October with founder Dellann Elliott, Smart is now a key spokesperson for the group.
It has been a big year for one of the Puget Sound's most active non-profits, Sammamish's very own Chris Elliott Fund (CEF). CEF is dedicated to funding research into Glioblastoma Brain Cancer, and supporting people diagnosed with the disease, and their families. The CEO and driving force behind CEF is Dellann Elliott, whose husband, Chris, was diagnosed with Glioblastoma Brain Cancer in 2000. Since Chris' death in 2002, Dellann has campaigned tirelessly to shed a light of hope on the diagnosis of this little understood disease. In just 7 years, CEF has raised about $1 million, through direct donations and by securing grants, for brain cancer research, advocacy and education. CEF lobbies federal and state governments all across the country, and meets with countless organizations and families who have a loved one diagnosed with Glioblastoma. The foundation is run out of Elliott's home, and is now assisted by a part time staff of one. With continued support from donors and new fundraising efforts, CEF is working to expand capacity for patient outreach, staffing and a proper office. Until then the foundation will rely on the volunteers that has kept the organization going since it’s humble beginnings. "There were so few survivors when my husband was diagnosed nine years ago," Elliott said. "Everyday we are meeting more and more survivors. That shows we are investing in the right areas—research, education, and awareness. Each dollar raised provides the ability to help new patients know what to do next and get advanced brain cancer treatment." The group was instrumental in the establishment of the Christopher S. Elliott Neuro-oncology Lab for Glioblastoma Brain Cancer Research, at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass., a world leader in cancer research. And last year CEF funded a partnership with the Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment at the Swedish Neuroscience Institute in Seattle, a groundbreaking achievement in the treatment of Glioblastoma on the West Coast. People diagnosed with the illness have previously had to travel across the country for diagnosis and treatment - a journey that Elliott has personally taken herself many times, in support of local patients. "Dellann's leadership and dedication is unwavering, and she honors Chris’ legacy everyday to end brain cancer," said CEF's Mary Eversole. And Elliott's commitment and energy is proving to be infectious - in 2009 two big time supporters joined the CEF cause, adding not only celebrity status but also much needed exposure and fundraising power. Former television personality and Sammamish councilor-elect John Curley is now a CEF Board Member, and continues to serve as CEF’s Gala Auctioneer. Curley's professionalism and enthusiasm for the cause went a long way to helping CEF raise $65,000 at their 8th Annual Golf Classic and Gala in October. The Gala was an important event for CEF for another reason - it was there they proudly unveiled their newest supporter, Emmy Award winning actress Jean Smart, famous for her many TV roles including on hit shows "Frasier" and "24." Smart, whose sister was diagnosed with brain cancer, joined the CEF Board and is now the key spokesperson, a huge development for a group working to increase public awareness of Glioblastoma. "When I learned my sister was diagnosed with brain cancer I was filled with fear and didn't know what to think about the disease," Smart said. "What I know now is we have to bring brain cancer out of the shadows and illuminate it with light, science and optimism. It's the only way we will find a cure in our lifetime." To date CEF has helped more than 650 patients, or their loved ones, after brain cancer diagnosis. They do this not only through their advocacy and fundraising but through more hand-on support, such as helping patients understand the importance of genomic testing, getting advance brain tumor treatment, or assisting with their insurance coverage. But Elliott is not about to rest on her laurels. In 2010, CEF expects the need for patient support to double - on average, Elliott personally receives 2-3 new calls a day for help. The group is already planning for a series of big events is 2010, in which CEF will expand its capacity and programs. They plan to launch an ER doctor outreach program at major medical centers throughout the state, to help ER doctors determine where to send brain tumor patients for advanced treatment immediately after diagnosis. "It’s a daunting task, but doable, and critical to save lives," Eversole said. CEF has a goal to increasing patient support groups at the Ivy Center for Advanced Brain Tumor Treatment by 300 percent, and will launch a public awareness campaign with Smart to help them achieve this and other goals. Then there are the fundraisers. In July, the 9th Annual Chris Elliott Fund Golf Classic will be held at TCP Snoqualmie, with a few surprise celebrity players due to make an appearance. This will be followed by the annual bike ride in August 22, and the 9th Annual Chris Elliott Fund Gala on October 1. CEF has set a lofty goal of raising $1 million at the gala in 2010. Given all they have achieved so far, who would doubt they could do it?