Renowned blown-glass artist Dale Chihuly is creating an exclamation mark for the role of the 12th Man in the Seattle Seahawks' Super Bowl victory by crafting a dozen Seahawk-color seaform pieces to be sold or auctioned to benefit Seattle Gilda's Club and its cancer-support network.
And the Seahawks will be closely involved, led by star wide receiver Golden Tate. With a grandmother who died of breast cancer, Tate quickly became a supporter of Gilda's Club after learning of its work, and then attracted his teammates to play in the annual Gilda's golf-tournament fundraiser.
The Chihuly dozen will be replicas of the blown-glass piece by Chihuly that was a key in the wager between Seattle Mayor Ed Murray and his Denver counterpart and was to be auctioned off to benefit Denver homeless in the event the Seahawks lost.
The sale of the Chihuly pieces will be the pizzazz for Gilda's club visibility this year. But visibility of a different and more lasting sort is growing within the healthcare community in the Northwest in the past couple of years because of the club's focus on the emotional impact of cancer on the sufferers and their families.
Cancer-care medical centers are coming under increasing pressure to provide services beyond the medical to the whole patient, as well as patient families. And that has opened a new door for Seattle Gilda's Club, which now has contracts with three area hospitals to provide those services, often referred to as compassionate care.
"We now have contracts to provide services to Overlake and Children's hospitals and the Muilticare system, which encompasses Auburn, Gig Harbor, Puyallup and Tacoma," Gottlieg noted, adding that the arrangements represent 20 percent of last year's revenue for Gilda's Club.
And the programs Gottlieb's organization is putting in place, both in the community and with the hospitals, are bringing a much broader awareness of Gilda initiatives that have been unfortunately little known to the general public until recently.
Seattle Gilda's Club was founded in 1996 by Anna Gottlieb and the doors to its building opened five years later, the first Gilda's Club in the West.
Gottlieb explains her commitment to the Gilda's cause, including weathering the years of financial struggle, by recalling that her mother had breast cancer "and no place to go, no one to talk to. I was 12 at the time and that sort of thing sticks with you."
It was the bond of both having endured their mothers' cancers that brought Dr. James Bianco, the CEO of Cell Therapeutics Inc. (CTI), to become the major business-community force behind Gilda's, including bringing business practices to the operation of the non-profit.
He had known Gottlieb from her involvement with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, where Biano had been a doctor working with Nobel Laureate Donnell Thomas before he launched CTI, which is seeking to create a range of oncology products.
Mike Kunath, A principal in the Seattle-based investment advisory firm of kunath Karren Rinne and Atkin LLC, was among those introduced to Gilda's Club by Bianco and he has helped Gottlieb with the business focus.
"Until now Gilda's Club has been largely unknown and under loved, but that's changing," said Kunath. "Now when cancer strikes a family, the second call is likely to be to GC."
Now back to the Chihuly glass pieces. Bianco developed a close friendship in recent years with Chihuly and in a dinner conversation that included Golden Tate about an event to provide financial support for Gilda's Club, Bianco threw out the idea of doing 12 glass pieces in honor of the 12th man. Tate quickly bought into the plan, Bianco recalls.
"I asked 'what if your studio could do 12 of the Seahawk-color seaforms and announce that Golden Tate, Russell Wilson and Richard Sherman invite you to a special event?'"
He said Chihuly instantly agreed, but wanted to get the $10,000 price the seaform pieces usually go for.
"I said we needed to start the prices on them at $12,000, keeping with the 12th man theme of it all," Bianco added.
A date for the event hasn't been pinned down, but will likely be in May. They also don't yet know whether they can do an auction of any of the pieces because of uncertainties relating to use of the 12th Man beyond the Seahawks reach.
In discussing the challenges facing hospitals, Gottlieb says "Health care systems do not do a good job of assessing distress in patients and need to pay more attention to the whole patient. We can help with patient satisfaction and help medical centers keep their own patients. We can take the burden off hospitals and workplaces."
"Patients are unhappy with their care and are demanding more services," she says.
With respect to the emerging program opportunities for Gilda's, Gottlieb says "Our strongest programs are in the education arena. We have lectures, put together symposiums on all cancers, facilitate workshops and we take lectures out in the communities. We have been to Bellingham, Bremerton, and all over the South Sound."
"We run the only summer day camp in the Northwest for families living with cancer," she added. "We do camp for three weeks in the summer for kids, ages 5-12, who have a parent with cancer or have lost a parent to cancer, and we do a cancer program for the kids. We are now doing the camp in in Tacoma and will soon branch out to other locations around the State."
In addition to overtures from cancer-care hospitals elsewhere in Washington, and in Oregon, a group in Eugene has been pressing Gilda's Club to extend its presence there. And Gottlieb says she has now been in communication with cancer-care facilities beyond the Northwest.
And one program Gottlieb is hopeful of taking nationally.
"We started a writing contest for teens with cancer or who have a parent or friend with cancer," Gottlieb said. "We have collected over 1,500 essays and we have given out scholarship money, over $75,000 in the past seven years." My goal is to take this to a national level.
Looking ahead, Gottlieb suggests "Our biggest area of future growth may be in the survivorship area, which is screaming out for help. Particularly with what patients call 'lost in transition.'"
"Patients are released from care with no plans, no idea of what is next and symptoms can linger for years and years," she says.
"Cancer is now a chronic illness for many and they still need help long after diagnosis, areas where we can really step in and help with more education and address many issues, since patients need help finding their new normal and navigating their way back to work and relationships and life in general."