The Los Angeles Kings and the Kings Care Foundation were honored by the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network at their 15th annual ‘An Evening With The Stars Gala.’ Kings President/General Manager Dean Lombardi accepted the Emily Couric Public Service Award on behalf of the Kings at the Gala.
The award is named in memory of Virginia State Senator Emily Couric, sister of Katie Couric, who died from pancreatic cancer in 2001 at the age of 54. It is given to an individual or organization that, in a public role, exemplifies the dedication to others as seen in the life and work of Emily Couric.
“It was just very touching for me to see him care so much and for him to see that there are so many people suffering from this disease,” said Wandamae Lombardi, Dean’s wife. “He was proud to go up there and accept it for the Kings and he’s very grateful to the Kings for the last two years, acknowledging pancreatic cancer at our hockey games and within our organization.”
The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is not only dedicated to raising awareness and support for patients but also creating hope and advancing research for a cure. The national organization raised nearly $1.1 million at the Gala, all of which goes directly toward their effort to double the survival rate of pancreatic cancer by the year 2020.
For the Lombardi’s, the cause behind the organization hit close to home -- Wandamae’s brother, Thomas Grissom, found out he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer in December 2009.
Today, Grissom is still fighting the disease.
Through the organization’s website, Grissom found out about clinical studies and trials.
“He’s a good candidate for that because, he was diagnosed with stage four but he’s still with us,” said Wandamae Lombardi. “While he’s had his ups and downs, he’s definitely worked very hard to fight the disease.”
Although Grissom wasn’t able to attend the Gala, which took place on October 20, because he wasn’t feeling well, his family attended to honor him and his fight.
“The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network also put a very sweet picture of him up on the screen up there so we were able to see that and he was with us in spirit,” she said.
Over the summer, the Lombardi’s took the Stanley Cup to Ludlow, Massachusetts, Dean’s hometown. They visited the gravesite of his best friend who had passed away from pancreatic cancer.
“Both Dean and I have been touched by this disease. My aunt passed away from it about 10 years ago, so it’s something that is more common than you think,” she said.
Two years ago, Wandamae found out about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, whose corporate offices are located in Manhattan Beach.
“Raising awareness for pancreatic cancer, which has a five-year survival rate of just six percent, is a major priority for our organization,” said Jennifer Reeves, PanCAN’s Public Relations Manager. “We are incredibly grateful to the LA Kings for having raised immeasurable awareness about the fight against pancreatic cancer in the LA community.”
The Kings have hosted awareness nights during home games at STAPLES Center, aimed to educate fans about the disease and the work being done by the organization. In addition, the Kings produced PSA’s aired at games featuring Kings players and both Dean and Wandamae.
The Kings, who brought the Stanley Cup to the Gala, also participate in the NHL and NHL Players Associations’ annual Hockey Fights Cancer initiative each October, which the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network is one of the five charitable partners.
This year’s event also honored the San Diego Padres and the Padres Foundation, as well as Greg Willard, a veteran NBA referee, who was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer this past summer. Dodgers General Manager Ned Colletti also attended and presented the award to Dean Lombardi.
“To have such community focused teams in Los Angeles is tremendous, and we hope to continue to work together to raise the visibility of pancreatic cancer for years to come,” Reeves said.
The Kings Care Foundation and the Dodgers Foundation each pledged $2,500 to the organization during the Gala. The Kings Care Foundation served as a $5,000 Bronze Sponsor of the event.
Two years after learning about the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, Wandamae continues to help with fundraisers and Purple Stride events, which are walking or running events that raises money toward the goal of ending pancreatic cancer, and sending letters to Congress about funding for research.
“The disease is not as well funded, even though it takes 94 percent of the people who are diagnosed within the first five years, so it’s a high rate of not so successful individuals when they’re diagnosed,” she said. “We need more funding for pancreatic cancer research. I am a big advocate for that and trying to get the federal government to fund additional research for pancreatic cancer. To give us some more money for research and grants.
“I’m hoping that we can get that done before it takes my brother’s life, but things like this take so much time.”
November is National Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. For more information, visit www.pancan.org.