For more than 45 years, filling the gaps in the healthcare system in the Rio Grande Valley has always been the purpose of the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Cancer Foundation, but supporting pediatric cancer and hematology care and treatment has perhaps made the greatest impact of all of the Foundations endeavors.
When the Board of Directors began to look into new services to support in 2000, one great need stood out above all else. The region had very limited pediatric cancer treatment services and not one single pediatric oncologist lived in the region. Parents had no choice but to travel long distances to San Antonio, Houston or Corpus Christi to give their child a chance to survive.
The Board knew that local children and their families deserved better so Dr. Ken Landrum, then Board Chair, reached out to his alma mater, Baylor College of Medicine, to seek help. That initial call lead to the opening in 2001 of the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Children’s Cancer and Hematology Clinic, a joint effort of the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Cancer Foundation, Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. At that time, no one ever imagined that Dr. Landrum and the Board would help save so many children in the Valley by providing for the first time, state-of-the-art childhood cancer treatment, close to home.
It was the goal of Dr. Landrum and the Foundation then, and still remains true today, that every child in South Texas in need of cancer treatment would receive it and without regard to their families’ ability to pay. This meant the Foundation would have to commit to significant financial support. After many years and millions of dollars, the extraordinary demand for pediatric and hematology care in the Valley posed a new challenge for the Foundation. It was faced with real concern for fulfilling the financial commitment to the Vannie Cook Clinic and its young patients. As a result, the Board reached out to the local and Texas philanthropic community with the $5 Million Campaign For Saving Our Children. Healing Our Families. “After two years of fundraising it was such an incredible joy to reach the goal for it means the Foundation will be able to help secure the availability of quality pediatric cancer treatment in the Valley for years to come. Of course, this would not have been achieved without out the financial commitment of every single Vannie Cook Cancer Foundation board member and many other caring supporters who donated so generously”, said Dr. Landrum.
After almost 20 years of serving as Board Chair, Dr. Landrum decided it was time to step down but not before the Board had the opportunity to pay tribute to their great leader whose vision & dedication changed the way that local children with cancer and serious blood disorders received care and treatment. “Ken knew that something had to be done to give these critically ill children a chance to fight their battle close to home, family and friends. He wanted to give parents the assurance that their child would receive care and treatment second-to-none and the hope that their child would have a healthy and happy future,” said Kathy Collins, new Board Chair. “Although he is no longer the Foundation Chair, Ken will always be our Leader and a very special Hero to so many children.”
Visit www.vanniecook.org for more information.