With the Centennial Convention celebrating City of Hope's volunteer fund-raisers, we take this opportunity to highlight a few...
By Nicole White
In 1961, Elaine Bloom – then wife of Jimmy Bloom and mother of an 18-month-old – moved from Boston to Chicago when her husband’s job transferred him. But it wasn’t until a few years later that she found her home there.
That was when she was invited to a membership meeting for City of Hope’s Chicago fund-raising chapter.
“I joined without anything, without any connection,” she said. “I just said yes. Since then, my friends became my family for all these years … Once City of Hope gets in your blood, it stays. It’s absolutely a family.”
Bloom, whose husband frequently travelled for work, quickly dove into her volunteer duties, and in time, held every chapter office available to her, from treasurer to a long run as president. Her efforts earned her a Louis Tabak Award from City of Hope, an honor that recognizes volunteers for their dedication and positive influence on local chapters.
Eight years ago, Bloom was invited to serve on City of Hope’s ambassador leadership council, a group of eight volunteers from chapters across the country. The council connects the local chapters with the lifesaving work happening at City of Hope, organizing the national convention and other events. Bloom puts it: “We argue. We love each other, and we get lots of things accomplished.”
In recent months, the council has been focused on the national convention, held June 21 to 23. Hundreds of volunteers – who throw galas and fashion shows, walks and more to raise money for cancer research and treatment – got an up-close look at the fruits of their labors. The convention itself took place at the Langham Hotel in Pasadena, but it included tours of City of Hope.
“We’re going to have one of the best conventions ever,” Bloom said beforehand. “It’s City of Hope’s centennial, and we bring the people in to see what it’s all about.”
Bloom said she’s participated in more fundraising efforts than she can recall. The highlights include 21 years of running a bingo night and 18 years participating in the Walk for Hope in Chicago with a team called Mara’s Hope. Mara is the name of a team member whose daughter had breast cancer, and over the years, has been one of the top fund-raising teams in the country.
In addition to being like family to Bloom, City of Hope has become a family tradition. Her children and grandchildren have their own Walk for Home teams, and they banded together with others to form a new City of Hope volunteer chapter: Lifeline Chicago. Bloom’s children Lauri Kaplan, Debbie Jutzi and Scott Bloom were among the group’s first members.
Asked how much money her efforts and those of her fellow Chicago chapter volunteers have raised, Bloom estimates around $2 million – but she doesn’t keep a running tally of her individual efforts. She’s more focused on why the money is so important: fighting diseases that have claimed and affected the lives of so many.
Of all the changes Bloom has witnessed in her decades of volunteering, the acceleration of cancer research has made the biggest impression on her.
“When I first came into City of Hope, every hospital out there had scientists and doctors working to find things, but it was their own things,” she said. “Now, everyone shares, and that is the only way we’re ever going to find a solution to so many of these diseases. It’s amazing how much everyone shares and collaborates with each other, and maybe that will be the breakthrough that we need so desperately.”