Six years ago, Joe Kelley, vice president of government and public affairs for Eli Lilly and Company, lost his wife Shelley to leukemia. Rather than let the disease have the last word, Kelley decided to carry on his wife’s fighting spirit. Since then, he’s worked tirelessly with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to raise funds to advance the mission of the organization. So, it was only natural that he also became involved with the Leukemia Ball, too. This year, Kelley is co-chairing the event — the largest non-political fundraiser in the DC area — to be held Saturday, March 29. He spoke with ExecutiveBiz about the ball, and the life-saving results of its efforts.
Tell me a little about The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society(LLS) and the Leukemia Ball.
Joe Kelley: LLS is a nonprofit organization dedicated to finding a cure for leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. At the same time, we want to improve the lives of patients and their families. The Leukemia Ball is a black-tie gala presented by the National Capital Area Chapter to raise money and awareness for its mission.
The Leukemia Ball offers unique business networking opportunities, at the event and during the planning months. I am one of 20 business leaders who serve on the Leukemia Ball’s Co-chair Leadership Committee and one of more than 60 who serve on its executive committee.
Why are you involved with the Leukemia Ball as a co-chair?
Joe Kelley: Six years ago, I lost my wife Shelley to leukemia. For eleven months, I watched her battle this horrible disease with dignity and compassion for her fellow patients. I saw firsthand the devastating effects of blood cancer on patients and families and understand the critical need for research. Since then, I’ve worked with The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to raise funds to advance the mission of the organization. So, it was only natural for me to become involved with the Leukemia Ball. I am thrilled to be co-chairing the event this year with Mr. Fernando Murias, a Partner at PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP.
Working on the Leukemia Ball has had a tremendous impact personally and we’ve seen the money raised go toward life-saving research. Because of fundraising efforts like the Leukemia Ball, the society has funded research that has doubled and tripled the survival rates for blood cancer patients over the last 20 years.
What is the appeal of this year’s ball? Who will be attending, who will be performing?
Joe Kelley: This year’s ball is on Saturday, March 29 at the Washington Convention Center. It’s been the largest non-political fundraiser in the DC area for many years now. We’re expecting more than 2,500 guests. The event brings together many different DC communities – corporate, political, philanthropic and entertainment!
Even better is our headline entertainment – Mr. Jay Leno will be performing! Our theme is “Roaring Twenties: Ain’t We Got Fun!” Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes are our musical entertainers for the night. The event is so great because there’s something for everyone – comedy, music, dinner & dancing, silent auction, Mercedes-Benz raffle, etc.
What is the goal of this year’s Leukemia Ball?
Joe Kelley: This is the 21st annual Leukemia Ball. The ball has raised more than $30 million since its inception. Our goal this year is to raise $3.6 million and I have no doubt we’ll make it happen. These dollars are critical for the advancement of cancer research and patient services.
Our second goal is to raise awareness of our mission. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society provides a broad range of services to patients and families fighting blood cancers. The Ball is just one more way of making people aware of the LLS mission and that it is here to help. And, folks can have a great night out at the same time!