Centennial Convention Profile - Bonnie Fein of California
With the Centennial Convention celebrating City of Hope's volunteer fund-raisers, we take this opportunity to highlight a few...
 
By Roberta Nichols
 
During the 1930s, Bonnie Fein’s grandmother Bessie Kaplan kept a coin box in her Boyle Heights, Calif., home in which she collected money for a tuberculosis sanatorium called City of Hope.

“At that time, Jews were denied treatment at other hospitals, but they were treating them at City of Hope,” Fein said.

When Fein’s parents, Arthur and Rosalie Kaplan, were newly married, they played cards with other couples, and taking Bessie’s charitable cue, started donating their proceeds to City of Hope.  Before long, they joined a fund-raising auxiliary for the hospital called the Sportsmen’s Club.

“The big thing for women involved with City of Hope was the Sportsmen’s Club Women’s Luncheon held in Beverly Hills,” Fein said. It was such a hot ticket that it evolved into three consecutive days of luncheons that sold out every day. “We’re talking 1,000 people a day – Jewish, white, Asian, black. They used to put on their fanciest suits and hats and come to this luncheon.”

Fein remembers the first time she accompanied her mother to the event. “They asked me – because I was this cute little girl in a party dress – if I would sell raffle tickets. It’s the first time I remember I was instrumental in doing something on my own for City of Hope. That was my introduction.” 

Throughout the years, Fein continued to raise funds for City of Hope. She now serves on the Ambassador Leadership Council, and is a current member of the Board of Governors and Board of Regents. Her family too has maintained its support for City of Hope, bestowing major financial gifts, the most recent of which launched construction of the Kaplan Family Pavilion, due for completion in January.
 
This gateway for City of Hope will house an assembly hall for visiting groups, as well as an exhibition hall for historical memorabilia and displays of new scientific accomplishments. The nearly 8,000 square-foot-pavilion will sit near the original 10-acre parcel on which City of Hope began in 1913.  

At the pavilion’s groundbreaking ceremony last January, at which City of Hope and Rosalie Kaplan were celebrated for turning 100, Fein explained to the audience what was expected of her and her brothers Michael and Steven.

“We were taught from a very early age that if we were lucky enough to have financial resources that we should live a good, productive and enjoyable life, but balance it with a life of helping others and working for the greater good.”
 
This spirit of giving was part of the family DNA, yet what became second nature was also nurtured by Fein's parents. Arthur Kaplan, who co-founded and presided over the development firm KB Management, decided that one Thanksgiving, he would take his children to a local orphanage he helped support. “My father said, ‘You need to eat with the kids, to see what their Thanksgiving is like because they don’t have families.’”
 
“My parents wanted us to understand that not everybody’s as blessed as we are,” Fein said. “That’s the culture we were raised in, where being charitable, giving back, is as fundamental as going to school or any other ritual you have in your life.”

“Mom and Dad came from humble beginnings, but as they made money, the money they gave away increased as well,” Fein said.

“Deciding to build this new building was never seen as an obligation but rather our continuing commitment to help an institution that nurtures, cares for and treats the ill in their time of greatest need,”   Fein told the audience at the Pavilion groundbreaking.  “Our father, Arthur Kaplan, was one of those people.”

When Arthur Kaplan was diagnosed with colon cancer in 1981, he was told by a physician that he had only about four months to live and that he should get his affairs in order.  Instead, he went to City of Hope for a second opinion. Under the care of Lucille Leong, M.D., he soon began taking the then-new drug Interferon. He lived almost four additional years.

“We attribute that to the City of Hope, because otherwise, he would have gone home, packed it in, and waited to die,” Fein said. “When he went to the City of Hope, he really did have hope.  When you get a diagnosis of cancer, hope is the first thing that’s easy to lose. City of Hope gives it back to you.”

“I don’t know any institution anywhere in the country or the world that treats people with the kind of dignity that City of Hope does,” Fein said.

During the ensuing four years, Fein said her father “had a lot of enjoyment.”  He spent time on his boat, saw his children marry, and welcomed new grandchildren (who have since grown up into a fourth generation of City of Hope supporters).
His medical reprieve also gave him time to travel. “For my mother’s 70th birthday, we went as a family on a trip to Europe,” recalled Fein.  “We have a lot of good memories as a family.”

Her father’s extra years proved to be a turning point for Fein. “That’s when I said, ‘If there’s anything I can do for City of Hope in my powers, I will do it.’ When you’re given a gift as wonderful as City of Hope gave me, I owe them and I always will,” Fein said.