By Hena Kon
As generous philanthropists, Immediate Past Co-Chairs and current Board members, Marlene and Joel King are true champions of Hope & Cope in every sense of the word. No strangers to cancer – each of their fathers died of the disease – they are proud to be part of an organization that has such a positive impact on cancer patients and their families.
Marlene and Joel first became aware of Hope & Cope back in 1983, when their 12-year-old cousin was diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma – the same disease that, decades earlier, had struck Hope & Cope Founder Sheila Kussner as a teenager. When the treating team advised amputation, the child’s mother turned to Sheila for advice. True to form, Sheila was tremendously supportive to both the terrified pre-teen girl and her devastated mother. Recalls Marlene, “I was so impressed and inspired that I volunteered to work in the Hope & Cope office for a few years, answering the phone, fitting patients with wigs and other tasks.”
Through the intervening years, while raising their family of three daughters, Marlene and Joel both kept up their connection to Hope & Cope, attending the organization’s annual Fashion Fantasy fundraisers, responding generously to donation requests, and co-chairing major events such as our 25th Anniversary Gala Honouring Sheila Kussner. So it was only natural that when Sheila invited them to serve as Co-Chairs of Hope & Cope’s Board six years ago, they agreed without hesitation.
As Joel explains, “We both had community leadership experience, chairing fundraising campaigns for Federation CJA – the Jewish community’s main fundraising arm.” Adds Marlene, “Hope & Cope has always been close to our hearts and we were honoured to have been asked.”
Highlights of their three-year tenure as Board Co-Chairs included: the incredibly successful Monday Night Live Campaign in 2015, which raised an unprecedented $3.2 million, the development of a strategic plan that would ensure a stable and impactful future for Hope & Cope, and our “10-36” celebrations in 2017 marking both the 36th Anniversary of Hope & Cope and the 10th Anniversary the establishment of the Wellness Centre.
More recently, Marlene and Joel stepped up yet again, with an exceptionally generous lead gift to Hope & Cope’s Legacy Campaign. And that’s not all: Joel is in charge of soliciting major gifts for this campaign while Marlene is co-chairing the upcoming Gala, which has been postponed due the pandemic and is now scheduled for August 23, 2022.
Their involvement as leaders and as generous donors is a source of great satisfaction to Marlene and Joel. “It is very gratifying to be giving back in any way we can,” says Joel. A firm believer in leading by example, he adds that, “To the extent that they are financially able to do so, it is incumbent on those who direct an organization to donate generously.”
At the same time, pointing to Hope & Cope’s cadre of compassionate, engaged volunteers, they assert that there are many ways to give back. “There is always something you can offer, whether it’s your time or a special skill,” notes Marlene.
Ultimately what keeps them engaged with Hope & Cope is the organization’s commitment to hands-on, direct, high-touch contact to patients. “There is an immediacy to what we do here and the impact is phenomenal,” concludes Joel.