Many donors are inspired to give to organizations that have either touched their lives or that help causes of a personal interest. Nancy and Craig Berge have been friends of the Arizona Cancer Center for 20 years, but they didn’t start the friendship because they or anyone they knew had been touched by cancer. It was a friendship born from their willingness to simply do something good for other people. That spirit of giving – with no strings attached, no ulterior motive, and no self interest – is rare in this world, but typical of Nancy and Craig Berge.
In 1987, one of Nancy’s friends called her and asked if she’d help raise money for cancer research with a group that would be known as the Phoenix Friends. “It’s a group of 40 women who are very good friends, and we have become good friends because of our shared desire to work and raise money for the Arizona Cancer Center,” says Nancy. “It’s a labor of love.” The group’s annual fund-raising event, Evening in the Park, has generated more than 3 million dollars for research equipment and programs since its inception.
“Nancy and Craig Berge represent the true spirit of the Arizona Cancer Center,” says Arizona Cancer Center Director David S. Alberts, MD. “Nancy, who also serves on our advisory board, has been an inspirational and hard-working member of the Phoenix Friends of the Center for many years, and Craig has been tremendously supportive of Nancy in this role – together they are a powerhouse couple of ‘friends’ and have left their continuing mark on the excellence of our research programs.”
More than four years ago, Nancy and Craig saw the Cancer Center through the eyes of the people it serves when Craig was diagnosed with bladder cancer. “It was just one of those things,” he says. “Cancer affects each and every one of us, and there probably isn’t a family in the United States that hasn’t had a member who has been diagnosed or touched by the cancer problem we have.”
Nancy says the experience came to her as a shock and made her realize that although she was involved and raising money for research, no one is protected from cancer. “It made me feel a compulsion to raise as much money as I possibly can because the Center deserves as much as they can get to accomplish their goals of finding cures and making life better for cancer patients,” she says. And fortunately, you can hear the smile in Craig’s voice when he says, “I’m cancer free.”
The Berges recently made a significant unrestricted gift to the Arizona Cancer Center. “My husband and I know that gifts that can be used where they are needed most are appreciated,” says Nancy. “We are huge fans of Dr. Alberts, and we support the way he is running the Center, the way the Center has expanded to serve the needs of the patients, and the things he is accomplishing, so we decided to structure our gift this way.”
World-renowned scientist Robert Livingston, MD, will be able to use the funds for his research and his efforts to launch new clinical trials, a critical step to developing new therapies. Dr. Livingston says, “Unrestricted donations are invaluable support for innovative and scientific groups. We can’t adequately state how much we appreciate the faith the Berge family has placed in us.” He adds, “The Arizona Cancer Center is also fortunate to have a director who keeps his finger on the pulse in every area of research and who will make sure that this gift has the greatest potential to translate into more favorable outcomes for patients.”
The Berges say they feel tremendous personal satisfaction at being part of the dreams, hopes and accomplishments of the physicians, nurses and researchers at the Arizona Cancer Center. Nancy says, “Meeting them and hearing about their passions is very inspiring.”