Donor Stories

Global Oncology

Donor Stories

Miriam Sevy was a force of nature. That is how Dr. Steve Kussick, president of the board for the all-volunteer, Seattle-based Burkitt’s Lymphoma Fund for Africa, remembers the nonprofit’s founder.

A financial consultant with a passion for community service, Sevy started BLFA after a trip to western Kenya in 2009 arranged by the global health organization PATH. She had gone to learn about malaria prevention, but while there, she encountered a hospital ward of children with rapidly growing, painful tumors in their jaws or abdomens. The tumors were caused by Burkitt lymphoma, the leading cause of pediatric cancer deaths in equatorial Africa. Yet this form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma is highly curable if treated in time with common chemotherapy — treatment that is out of reach for many in this poor and largely rural region.

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Ruth and Doug McKnight in Zambia.

For Doug and Ruth McKnight, Global Oncology at Fred Hutch offers the couple an opportunity to invest in two of their shared passions.

“We love Africa and its people, and we have devoted a great deal of our lives to improving the lives of children,” Ruth said.

Doug and Ruth set aside successful careers in corporate law in 1998 to work with troubled youth and their families. “We just have a soft spot for children,” Doug said. So the McKnights were particularly moved by the needs of the children they met on one of their visits to West Africa. “We were ready to write a check and adopt an entire school,” Ruth said.

But the couple decided to wait to make a gift until they found the best organization to steward their contributions. “The Hutch meets that in spades,” Ruth said.

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