Hutch News Stories

Dedicated supporters at the Heart of the Hutch

Using creativity and passion to support Fred Hutch research in good times and bad
photo of Joan de Bruin writing at a desk
Writer and cancer survivor Joan de Bruin donated her stimulus check to support the Hutch's COVID-19 research. Photo courtesy of Joan de Bruin

Heart of the Hutch: Our supporters edition

We have been profiling people who illustrate the culture and spirit of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center with the Heart of the Hutch series. This edition focuses on our supporters.

“The Hutch is the root of my life,” said Joan de Bruin. That life could have easily turned out differently.

The first oncologist she talked to was, let’s say, not a good match. “I have good news and bad news,” he said on a Thursday in 2002. “The good news: You won’t die by Monday. The bad news: You have leukemia.”

“I didn’t drink or smoke. I was healthy,” said de Bruin, who lives in southern California. “But he said I was too old for a transplant at age 60. So I decided to get a second opinion.”

Her experience in Seattle could not have been more different. The Fred Hutch physician-scientist she met with spent time explaining her condition and the blood stem cell procedure that could save her life. “I felt like I was sitting in a lecture class,” she said. “The people there were so giving and caring. And I couldn’t believe the up-to-date equipment. It was such a revelation.”

Much has changed for de Bruin since her blood stem cell transplant. At the time, she was a visual artist and director of the Craft and Folk Museum under the Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department. After her transplant, she took up writing fiction and has published three books to date. “I found my voice,” she said. “If the Hutch hadn’t saved my life, the books wouldn’t have been written.” 

De Bruin had already found one way to support our cancer research by putting Fred Hutch in her will. But when she heard that the Hutch needed support for COVID-19 research, she decided to donate her stimulus check to the effort.

“It’s very important to support the research,” she explained. “As a transplant recipient, I’m immuno-compromised, and so are many other people. I hope I can inspire them to do the same.”

Fred Hutch researchers have played a leading role in the international scientific response to the pandemic thanks to generous supporters like de Bruin, but we’re not done. Learn more about the impact of your support on the COVID-19 response. 

About this series

So much of Fred Hutch’s lifesaving research is only possible because of the generosity of its supporters. Just how critical their support is became apparent when we faced an unexpected and unfunded challenge: COVID-19. While we were pivoting our infectious disease expertise to take on this new disease, the pandemic’s economic impact and lockdowns were constraining our budget and our ability to conduct cancer research.

In that moment of crisis, the Hutch community understood that fearless science was more important than ever. Nearly 40,000 people in 50 states and 51 countries responded to the Hutch’s calls for support. They made new gifts or increased the size of their annual contributions, and they used their creativity and resourcefulness to raise money. Fueled by this support, the Hutch kept its cancer research moving forward while helping to lead the world through the current crisis.

"Fred Hutch has been the beneficiary of extraordinary generosity," said Dr. Thomas J. Lynch Jr., Fred Hutch president and director and holder of the Raisbeck Endowed Chair. "That continued dedication is a remarkable expression of support and love for the work that goes on at the Hutch every day."

This series highlights just a few of the thousands of Fred Hutch supporters who are part of the Heart of the Hutch.

Avori
More than 200,000 people tuned in to watch popular gamer Avori’s charity stream (main photo) and ask questions of Fred Hutch's Dr. Amitabha "Guppy" Gupta (inset). Screenshot by Andrea Larson

Gaming for cures

Video games may be virtual, but things got real when a streamer known as Chibi_Ichig0 told her viewers on the livestreaming gaming platform Twitch that she would eat a whole onion covered in sriracha when she raised $500 for Fred Hutch.

She kept her word — and went on to take a pie in the face when she reached $1,000. Streamers Bustin and FrivviFox stepped up, too, holding a bakeoff with a twist. Every time they received a $250 donation, one of them got a chance to sabotage the other’s cake.

Over the last two years, dozens of social media influencers have used their platforms (and passion) to raise money for Fred Hutch research through online charity streams on Twitch or Facebook Live.

One of the first to hold a charity stream for the Hutch was a former model based in Los Angeles whose screen handle is Avori. She’s now one of the top female players of the game PUBG and an advocate for female gamers.

“Every time we ask, she will do a charity event for us, and she always puts a creative spin on it,” said Andrea Larson, a senior manager in Fred Hutch’s Philanthropy Department. “She has a big following. People love her.”

When she was 14, Avori lost one of her best friends to leukemia. “She went so fast,” Avori said. “It really hit home.” Two years later, her dad survived a rare form of brain hemorrhage. “There was no research on his type of symptoms,” she said. “He didn’t have a lot of help when he was suffering.” 

These are the people she talks about when asked why she selected Fred Hutch as her charity of choice. “We need more research for the things they don’t know how to treat,” she said. “It’s the unknown. The day they say we found a cure or a better treatment plan — my goal is to be a part of that amazing news.”

And why gaming? “I love the opportunities it provides,” she said. “There’s the game — increasing skill level and then being able to showcase that — and then there’s the community aspect. It makes people feel they’re part of something larger than themselves. And charity streams bring our hearts and our minds together.”

Most of Avori’s charity streams have raised money for cancer research, but in May of 2020, she devoted one to COVID-19. As she played, Dr. Amitabha "Guppy" Gupta, Fred Hutch scientific content strategist, answered viewers’ questions about the coronavirus and described the Hutch’s research. At least 200,000 people tuned in, including a viewer who donated his COVID-19 stimulus check.

“I was so thankful he took that leap of faith to trust in Fred Hutch,” Avori said. “It’s amazing to see people come together for a cause.”

Are you a streamer? Your skills can help improve lives. Our streaming kit includes quick facts, short videos you can share with your fans, interesting swag and more.

Tanner Swanson
New York Yankees catching coach Tanner Swanson shares tips as part of the grassroots fundraiser Coaches vs. COVID. Photo courtesy of Tanner Swanson

A Yankees coach inspires the pros to raise funds for COVID-19 research

Tanner Swanson was one week away from starting his first full season as the catching coach for the New York Yankees when COVID-19 put the baseball season on hold. So he flew back to Roslyn, a small town in Washington’s Cascade mountains, to shelter with his wife and two kids.

Bunkered down at home, he talked shop and shared tips with fellow coaches over Zoom. But he quickly began to feel helpless as the new virus spread across the country. Then he hit on a plan to keep the coaching community connected and support COVID-19 research: a grassroots fundraising effort he dubbed Coaches vs. COVID.

Swanson offered virtual skills clinics to baseball coaches of all levels anywhere in the world. The cost to attend: a suggested $10 to $25 donation to Fred Hutch.

“Fred Hutch Cancer Research Center and its partner, Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, are both organizations that are very personal to me,” Swanson explained on his Fundraise for Fred Hutch webpage. “In 2018, I lost my older sister Ashley Berg to breast cancer, and these organizations had important roles in her various treatments throughout her long journey.”

Swanson invited other professional coaches to share their expertise using their networks. The idea clearly resonated. MLB coaches like Hall of Famer Dan Wilson, Kai Correa from the San Francisco Giants, the Chicago Cubs’ Craig Driver, Cody Atkinson from the Texas Rangers, and the Baltimore Orioles’ Tim Cossins offered webinars.

The popular clinics drew about 150 people each, and Coaches vs. COVID blew past its $25,000 goal in just over a month — in time for Swanson and his fellow coaches to return to their teams for the start of a very unusual baseball season. 

Coaches vs. COVID was “a way to feel like I could contribute in some capacity to something positive, whether contact tracing, or a vaccine, or whatever work the Hutch believes is most necessary,” Swanson said in an interview for a May 2020 Fred Hutch News Service story. He thanked the Hutch for supporting the campaign. “This has been a collaborative effort,” he said. “I’ve been personally inspired by [the Hutch’s] mission and the response.”

Interested in rallying your friends and family to support Fred Hutch’s research? The sky’s the limit on what you can do: Share your skills. Ask people to donate in honor of your birthday or the memory of a loved one. Organize a coronavirus-safe athletic fundraiser. Everything you need for a successful event is on our Fundraise for Fred Hutch website.

Tess
An extravagant holiday light show raised funds for cancer research in honor of Tess Halbert, who underwent treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Photo by Karen Haldors

Lighting up the dark nights of 2020 for a teenager named Tess

More than 70,000 lights. Two and a half miles of cable and 10 wireless devices. CO2 jets and a sparkle machine. That was just some of the gear Bruce Haldors used in his elaborate holiday lights show at his home in Redmond, Washington.

People who stopped to watch tuned their radios to listen to music synced with the lights. They also heard a message from Haldors about a young woman named Tess and Fred Hutch.

Tess Halbert is a former classmate of Haldors’ daughter. Like his daughter, she graduated from high school on June 12, 2020. But on June 13, while her friends were busy celebrating, Halbert was learning she had Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

Her doctors at Seattle Children's created a treatment plan in collaboration with Fred Hutch specialists; she's now finished treatment and is doing well. Meanwhile, Halbert’s community decided to look for ways to support the Hutch’s search for cancer cures. Her community included Alee Spencer, a Fred Hutch board of ambassadors member, who suggested that the Haldors’ light show could be a way to honor Tess while raising funds for research.

Haldors and his friend and co-creator, Josh Adams, knew their community would especially appreciate holiday lights because indoor celebrations were being cancelled due to COVID-19. They posted a sign asking “anyone who feels uplifted by our Christmas lights to make a gift to Fred Hutch in honor of Tess.”

They also set up a website, HisLights.com, where people could make a donation. “We’re readier than ever for a healthier world and to put cancer in the history books,” Haldors wrote on the site. “Let’s invest together in the science that will get us there — and do it in honor of Tess!”

Thanks to an anonymous donor who offered a dollar-for-dollar match, the holiday lights show raised more than $75,000.

“The lights brought joy to Tess, but also to so many others,” said Bruce’s wife, Karen Haldors. “Many appreciated the opportunity to honor people in their lives who have had cancer, or their own cancer experiences, through supporting the Hutch’s research.”

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Last Modified, March 23, 2021