Denny Sanford featured on Fox News, honored for philanthropy

Advocacy group recognizes benefactor among others helping science and medicine

By: Jacqueline Palfy .

Sanford Health philanthropist Denny Sanford honored
Sanford Health philanthropist Denny Sanford honored
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Philanthropist Denny Sanford was featured as the Power Player of the Week on Fox News with Chris Wallace.

Sanford told Wallace that he plans to “die broke,” with the goal of giving away his fortune. “Everything is committed to different organizations,” he said in the story, which aired on March 17, 2019.

Sanford had been in Washington, D.C., the week before with leaders from Sanford Health to announce an initiative with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and to receive an award from Research America for his philanthropy.

Research America awards honor Sanford

Sanford was honored for his history of giving to science and research by one of the nation’s largest not-for-profit public education and advocacy groups last week.

Research America, which began in the late 1980s and advocates for federal funding and a legislative and regulatory climate that encourages research, presented the award at its 2019 Advocacy Awards Dinner in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Sanford’s award came later in the evening after Research America acknowledged several other leaders who have helped advance research in a variety of ways.

In esteemed company

The event, held at the Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium, drew hundreds of guests in science, research, politics and medicine, including Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

Collins presented the Paul G. Rogers Distinguished Organization Award to The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Melissa Shiffman accepted the award and addressed the groundbreaking work Collins did to find the cause of the disease.

“I have a rare disease for which there is no cure,” Shiffman said. “We are living longer because Dr. Collins discovered the gene 30 years ago, and a groundswell of research has kept me alive and allowed me to accept this award today. It’s not an exaggeration to say I owe my life to him.”

Importance of funding emphasized

Mary Woolley, president and CEO of Research America, began the evening by talking about how layering in advocacy can catapult research to the next level.

She and others addressed the need for additional funding and support for science and research.

U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., echoed that when she accepted the Edwin C. Whitehead Award for Medical Research and Advocacy, saying securing funding for biomedical research at the NIH has been a focus of hers.

“The reasons are very clear,” Lowey said. “Every one of us in this room has seen a friend or family member suffer from a debilitating disease. And in the toughest of times, when reliance on even the best medical research and best medical professionals is not enough, we move forward with the hope that one day, no more people will suffer from this disease.”

She received a standing ovation for her comments.

“You can applaud again for both Democrats and Republicans,” Lowey said. “We have bipartisan support, and I’m very proud of that. … But what makes your heart warm is knowing that you are saving lives, and that’s what this is all about.”

Pelosi agreed and praised the work of Research America.

“We cannot allow America’s leadership in innovation and discovery to fall behind. What Research America is doing is advancing science, discovery, invention, and enabling us to have the biblical power to cure,” Pelosi said. “We have a moral responsibility to fund (research). It will save lives.”

‘Denny Sanford has built a legacy’

An exceptional commitment to funding was the focus of Gary Reedy’s introduction of Denny Sanford, who was given the Gordon and Llura Gund Leadership Award.

“Denny Sanford has built a legacy through his investment in the future of the physical and emotional health of Americans,” said Reedy, CEO of the American Cancer Society and a member of the Research America board. “Transformational gifts by Denny Sanford have propelled Sanford Research in its goal to becoming a world-class institution.”

Mr. Sanford has given nearly $1 billion to Sanford Health, a $6.5 billion health care organization based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, that employs nearly 50,000 people. Through his philanthropy, Sanford Health has built a children’s hospital, invested in research and, most recently, together gave $50 million to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, to provide pharmacogenetic testing to up to 250,000 veterans by 2022.

“I am humbled to be recognized alongside all of you,” Mr. Sanford said. “Your leadership has made research a priority, and we are all better for it.”

Credit to family, friends, Kelby Krabbenhoft

He went on to thank his family and friends.

“I wouldn’t be here without their encouragement and support,” Mr. Sanford said. “I also owe a lot to a friend who years ago gave some advice: Be challenged. Think beyond a life of success, and work toward a life of significance.”

Mr. Sanford said he thinks like an investor but looks for the greater good when it comes to the return on that investment.

“That’s people, and one of the most significant investments I’ve made is Sanford Health,” he said. “I’ve been lucky to have a great partner with Kelby Krabbenhoft. … He and his team present me with innovative ideas and aggressive goals. They focus on making an impact in people’s lives, and they overdeliver, every single time.”

At the end of his speech, Mr. Sanford shared the same sentiment as other winners, noting that investments in science and research are nearly always worth it.

“Because of your commitment, we are on the verge of breakthroughs that will transform health, and we must keep that momentum going.”

Jacqueline Palfy is a senior media relations specialist with Sanford Health. She has nearly 20 years of experience a as a print journalist and now helps connect reporters with sources in science, wellness and research. You can reach her at jacqueline.palfy@sanfordhealth.org, or on Twitter @runnerJPK.

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