By Denny Sanford

I was just 4 years old when I lost my mother to breast cancer.

It still hurts that I never got to know her and she never had the chance to see me grow up. I can only imagine the heartbreak and suffering she must have experienced.

It’s just as tragic to me that today, decades later, this disease still causes such pain.

We’ve seen great advances in medical research, but for families around the world, they aren’t happening quickly enough. We need to do more to encourage risk-taking, creativity and faster progress.

Progress is a passion of mine. It’s driven my investment in Sanford Health and the health system’s initiatives to cure breast cancer and type 1 diabetes, to improve access to care for children around the world, accelerate the integration of genomics into primary care and more.

That passion also drew me to the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award.

This $1 million prize goes to people who achieve significant breakthroughs in medical research — men and women who push ideas beyond the lab and across the finish line to cure people and improve lives. It’s for people like Drs. Katherine High and Jean Bennett, the two collaborators who won the inaugural 2018 award.

Drs. High and Bennett spent decades fighting an uphill battle to discover, develop and deliver a treatment that is now restoring sight in the blind. Theirs is the first gene therapy for an inherited form of blindness to win FDA approval and it’s created a pathway for other lifesaving therapies.

Thanks to the sheer determination of these two extraordinary women, people living in darkness now have the gift of vision. And children born today with that genetic condition will never know the same limitations people just a generation before them faced.

These are the kinds of medical breakthroughs I only dreamed I’d see in my lifetime. Through this award, we’re creating hope where it didn’t exist before. That really moves me. I want to keep up the momentum.

To that end, I’ve pledged to match the next $5 million donated to the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award. After seeing five families quickly step up to give $1 million each to support the inaugural prize, I was driven to help inspire the next five. I challenge others to join us, to get excited and be a part of this too.

Someday, women like my mother might not have to fear a disease like breast cancer. And maybe their children will grow up in a world without the suffering we know too well today. Together, we can make that happen.