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    Lifesaving Transplant Leads to Transformative Gift

    City of Hope
    Electronic Communications: Audio and Video - Bronze

    In September 2021, City of Hope announced a transformational gift from Jim and Leslie Belardi to advance blood cancer treatment and research at City of Hope. Their gift is the largest to City of Hope’s Hematologic Malignancies Research Institute (HMRI) and supports three main areas: the Belardi Accelerator Fund for Speed to Cure Translational Research in Blood Cancers, the Cellular Immunotherapy Innovation Fund, and the recruitment of faculty and clinicians associated with HMRI who will further the field of discovering, developing, and delivering new cures and treatments for blood cancers.

    To date, this generous gift is among the top three single largest philanthropic contributions in City of Hope’s history. The couple made the gift 14 years after Jim Belardi received a lifesaving bone marrow transplant at City of Hope. As an entrepreneur and leukemia survivor, Jim is passionate about supporting the kind of research and advancements that saved his life. The gift was announced with the video Lifesaving Transplant Leads to Transformative Gift.

    What was the most impactful part of your entry?
    At the beginning of the project, the marketing and communications team aimed to tell Jim Belardi’s story in an authentic and approachable way so all patients who navigate the cancer journey, regardless of background, can find strength, inspiration, and hope. Not all City of Hope supporters can make significant gifts like the Belardis, but the emotion and inspiration behind their support are often universal. The team sought to find the right balance of stewarding the generous donor while conveying a relatable story.

    Video producer Stephanie Smith conducted interviews with Jim and Leslie Belardi to uncover emotional moments during Jim’s cancer treatment. Stephanie and team chose to use the lessons from Jim’s swimming career as the story throughline, effectively illustrating how Jim’s “fierce will to live” coupled with the advanced treatments at City of Hope enabled him to achieve remission.

    The video also seeks to show how the generous gift upholds City of Hope’s leadership position in advancing cancer treatment by supporting the organization’s core value of “speed to cure.” Through effective interviewing and storytelling, Dr. Stephen Forman, Jim’s physician and the leader of HMRI, provides simple background information on Jim’s incredible challenge, the bone marrow transplant that ultimately saved him, and how Jim and Leslie’s transformative gift will help advance further research and treatment.

    The overall approach both humanizes and demystifies advanced cancer treatments, resulting in a video that can play effectively to various audiences, including annual giving donors, major gift donors, and blood cancer patients and their families. Additionally, the video conveys to City of Hope employees a great sense of pride that this gift is a vote of tremendous confidence in their work and excitement for what it can help them achieve in the fight against cancer.

    What is one thing you learned from your entry/experience?
    Unlike other typical video testimonials from donors, this video went further in its narrative arc: uncovering storytelling parallels between the Belardis’ personal lives, cancer journey, and gift today. The themes — racing against time, pushing through, family — come through clearly in all facets of the video. The swimming pool scene immediately draws a viewer in and neatly closes the video. The time invested to tell a deeper, more meaningful story, along with the visual aesthetic in this video, helped set a new standard for inspirational donor storytelling at City of Hope — and can be adapted by other institutions.

    Michelle McMichael