A Fund to Advance Colorectal Cancer Research
Date: April 1, 2013
Gratitude is a key element of philanthropy. Even when treatment recipients die, those left behind remain not only touched by their memory, but also grateful for the compassionate and quality care their loved one received from beginning to end. Johns Hopkins receives numerous philanthropic gifts every year for that very reason—such as those from the Shawn Felty Cancer Fund.
When 37-year-old Shawn Felty was diagnosed with stage-4 colon cancer in 2007, it had already spread to his liver. In his search for treatment options, he eventually sought help from surgical oncologist Michael Choti, in the Department of Surgery. “He really liked Dr. Choti,” recalls Felty’s cousin, Dwayne Frazier. “They just had a really great connection.”
Frazier grew up with Felty, and the pair remained close friends and roommates into adulthood. So when his cousin received the cancer diagnosis, the news hit Frazier very hard. “It was very discouraging,” Frazier says. “Shawn was a very genuine, inspirational person. People just gravitated toward him throughout his life.”
Everyone was thrilled and relieved when the surgery Choti performed to remove the cancer from Felty’s liver proved successful. “We really took a liking to Hopkins,” Frazier says. “It was a perfect match for us. The time Dr. Choti took to talk to my cousin, to really sit and have conversations before and after the surgery, meant so much to us. It just felt right. At some hospitals, you’re really just a number. But it wasn’t like that there.”
Unfortunately, Felty’s cancer returned in 2009, and this time he wasn’t able to beat it. When he died in December of that year, his family was determined to do something to honor his memory and demonstrate their gratitude to Choti and the people at Johns Hopkins who’d taken such good care of him all along the way. And so they established the Shawn Felty Cancer Research Fund at Johns Hopkins to help support Choti’s research by funding a partial fellowship supervised by Choti and focused on colorectal cancer research. So far, $27,500 has been contributed, mostly through sporting events such as golf and softball tournaments.
“Shawn loved softball,” Frazier says. “He played five times a week. So it seemed like a natural fit to have sporting events to raise money for this charity. He was an athlete, so we’ve always felt that individuals doing a sport and donating time and money just made sense for us.”