Rory’s memory continues to inspire Foundation’s mission
Not everyone active in The Rory David Deutsch Foundation had the pleasure of meeting Rory before his death ten years ago. It is memories of Rory that keep Allen Sutker focused on the mission of The Foundation. He did know the boy with the infectious smile and an enthusiasm for everything from sports to space. “I think about Rory every day,” says Allen, who is a longtime friend of the Deutsch family and has been a member of The Foundation’s Board of Directors since its inception. “He was a special kid. I have two Rory pins on my dresser at home and they are a constant reminder of him and what The Foundation is all about.”
As Allen points out, almost everyone has been touched by cancer in some way and many have imagined the pain of having a child suffer from this disease. “That draws people to support and become involved with organizations like The Rory David Deutsch Foundation,” he says. “The battle against cancer is something we are all connected to, and for me that connection is Rory—who he was as a person and who he would have become. In contributing to the effort to find a cure, and along the way helping kids with brain cancer live longer and more comfortably—which can be a blessing in itself—The Foundation is a very real way of keeping Rory’s memory alive.”
In fact, before Rory’s death Allen had organized fundraising events in the memory of others lost to disease. He, Brian Abrahams, and other business partners founded the Charita-Ball in honor of Brian’s father, David Abrahams, who died of cancer, and in honor of their friend, Jerry Shaftal, who died of leukemia as a young adult. For two years, the annual event raised funds for organizations supporting cancer and leukemia research. In 1999, the Charita-Ball included the newly established Rory David Deutsch Foundation among the recipients of its event. Drawing more than 2,000 people to the Navy Pier Ballroom for an evening of dinner and fun that included casino games and extravagant raffle prizes, the Ball raised $650,000. With a third of this total donated to The Foundation, the event was instrumental in helping The Foundation gain early momentum to support pediatric brain cancer.
With the success of the Charita-Ball behind him, Allen made a full commitment to The Foundation and has helped continue to fuel its momentum as an active board member. “Our strategy in organizing fundraising events and activities has been to be consistent rather than overwhelming people with invitations and solicitations,” he says. “At the same time, our larger events have been balanced by all of those more personal fundraising ideas that people have come up with on their own. We’ve had everything from kids donating bar mitzvah money to businesses launching special sales events for Rory to people participating in triathalons. It has really been amazing.”
Allen says the longevity of The Foundation and the enthusiasm it has sustained is due to Ross and Mindy’s leadership, personality, and dedication to the work of The Foundation. “They are great motivators, but they have also led The Foundation with a realistic approach,” he says. “They know this is a tough one, that they might not see a cure in their lifetime, but they continue to see every step The Foundation takes to direct more funding to the best researchers in the world as another step toward a cure. That’s what I’m reminded of every day when I look at those Rory pins.”