Behind a Big Local Gift for Alzheimer's Research

According to Mark Fried, president and CEO of the Oklahoma chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association, more and more research professionals are leaving Alzheimer’s behind to pursue other research because the funding is better for diseases. That fact is simply unacceptable for families who have a loved one struggling with Alzheimer’sfamilies like the Zarrows in Tulsa.

Related: Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation: Oklahoma Grants

The Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation just announced a massive $5 million grant to the Oklahoma chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. This money will be divided among at least a dozen different projects related to Alzheimer’s research. Alzheimer’s is a cause that hits close to home for the wealthy Zarrow family, as Henry Zarrow, a local oil entrepreneur, suffered from the disease before he passed away in 2014.

“They’ve always been very interested in and supportive of the Alzheimer’s Association locally,” said Bill Major, the foundation’s executive director. “We see the $5 million contribution as a legacy gift in honor of Henry Zarrow, hoping that it speeds along the cure for Alzheimer’s.”

However, this $5 million is a massive contribution for the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation, which reported about $7.7 million in total giving during 2013. Much of the Anne and Henry Zarrow Foundation’s giving has centered on Jewish causes, and while we don’t expect that to change much, this is a huge step in another direction.

Related: What Sets the Anne & Henry Zarrow Foundation Apart from Other Zarrow Philanthropies

However, it seems that this might just be a one-off gift to honor the family patriarch soon after his death, and it’s unclear whether medical research will emerge as a stronger giving priority in the years ahead. Historically, AHZ has supported small Jewish and homelessness organizations that have less than $50,000 in revenue and are based somewhere in Oklahoma.

“(Henry Zarrow) died last year, and it was in reflection of the Zarrows’ time in Tulsa that the foundation felt it was an appropriate time to make this gift,” Major said.

The Zarrow family’s gift was also well-timed because they aren’t they only ones giving to Alzheimer’s research on the local level right now. The association’s local chapter reported over $7 million in total donations over the last couple months, which is helping bring reserachers back to Alzheimer's. 

On a related note, an anonymous donor in the Tulsa area recently gave $2.3 million to Oklahoma chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Could it have been another Zarrow family member? There are three Zarrow funding entities, after all. We’re also wondering if the Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation will get in on this funding trend too, given its commitment to health-related research funding in Oklahoma.

Related - Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation: Oklahoma Grants

But at this point, the local Alzheimer’s Association is just trying to keep the momentum going. This influx of new donation money has inspired the association to pursue a campaign to raise an additional $100,000 for research purposes. There are several Walk to End Alzheimer’s events taking place between August and November in Oklahoma, and the association’s international conference kicks off soon in D.C.

So this headline-worthy $5 million grant was indeed well timed to capture the attention of other local and national funders interested in throwing their support into the ring as well. And with that, we say well played, Zarrow family.