Behind a Cancer Give By One of America's Biggest New Foundations

Earlier this year, I wrote about the late Ralph C. Wilson Jr., founder and former owner of the Buffalo Bills. He passed away in 2014 at the age of 95, but led a life of philanthropic and civic engagement, with a focus on Western New York State and Michigan. One interest of Wilson's was health, and he established the Ralph Wilson Medical Research Foundation, which contributed over $11 million to support medical research. Together with the Wilson Foundation, Wilson supported outfits such as Buffalo’s Roswell Park Cancer Institute, the Cleveland Clinic, the Mayo Clinic, and the Miami Project to Cure Paralysis.

Oh, and in that post, I also said that grantseekers working in this region should keep a close eye on the Wilson Foundation, as Wilson left around $1 billion to charityall of which must be spent over the next 20 years. 

So there's that.

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Now comes recent news that one of Wilson's longtime grantees, Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, received a $4.2 million donation from the rebooted Wilson Foundation. In Wilson's first publicly announced grant, the gift will fund "compassionate care programs that support the emotional, spiritual, and social needs of Roswell Park's patients." The so-called Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. Quality of Life Endowment will ensure "stable funding for programs that provide financial assistance for transportation and lodging, devices to help patients with disabilities resulting from cancer... an Artists in Residence Program," and more.

In life, Wilson gave around $2 million to Roswell Park Cancer Institute and, as a member of Circle of Ten, an additional $1 million to build a new chemotherapy unit for patients in the Roswell Park's new Clinical Sciences Center, set to open in spring 2016.

Now that the new phase of the Wilson Foundation's philanthropy has kicked off, expect money to keep flowing. This $4.2 million grant is part of $60 million in funding that the Wilson Foundation plans to distribute through its 2015 Transitional Legacy Grant Program, which focuses on five causes that Wilson cared about, including "healthy lifestyles," and "education, training, and support for caregivers."

Down the line, it's worth watching how Wilson's interests in life continue to shape the foundation's grantmaking, and the role that the foundation's trustees and staff play, including Wilson's widow, Mary. Of the gift, Mary Wilson said that "Roswell Park is not only one of the world’s leading cancer research and care centers, but also an institute my husband cared deeply about. Today’s announcement is a continuation of the passion and dedication he showed to improving the quality of life for people and organizations in Western New York and across the country.”

Like we said before, keep an eye on Wilson.