Heidi and I made our gift to the Sanford Lorraine Cross Award in good faith — faith that it’s going to find cures and end suffering.
For us, it’s personal.
As a nurse by training, Heidi is one of the most caring people I know. This award speaks to her great compassion as well as our hopes to make the world a better place for our kids and grandkids.
It also reflects our growing sense of urgency and frustration about the pace of medical discovery.
During childhood, my youngest brother, Paul, fell from a tree and suffered a spinal cord injury. It left him paralyzed from the waist down. The first on the scene, I held him as he looked up and said, “Kelb, I’ll never walk again.” I will never forget that.
And I will never forget the lifelong struggles my dad endured as he contended with a debilitating genetic condition. Gradually, it left him blind.
It made me angry to see people — especially those I love — suffer like that. It still makes me angry. There are things we could be doing to solve paralysis, to solve blindness and so much more. But the progress is so slow. We can do better, and that’s what the Lorraine Cross Award is about.
This award isn’t just one more blue ribbon for someone who does something significant. It’s for people who cross the finish line. I feel strongly about the idea of finishing things.
I want to bring back the likes of Dr. Maurice Hillman, the microbiologist — and gritty Montana native — who developed more than 40 vaccines, including those for measles, mumps, and hepatitis B. He is credited with saving more lives than any other medical scientist of the 20th century. That’s just one person.
Dr. Hillman epitomized perseverance and determination — the same traits mirrored in the co-recipients of the inaugural Lorraine Cross Award in 2018.
During a decades-long collaboration, Drs. Jean Bennett and Katherine High overcame hurdles you wouldn’t believe to push forward the first FDA-approved gene therapy for a genetic disease.
As fate would have it, the therapy they developed cures the same disease my dad had. To me, that was a sign — affirmation of the faith Heidi and I have placed in this award.
There’s no telling what treatments and cures the Lorraine Cross Award will inspire in the years to come. But what’s certain is this award wouldn’t exist without philanthropy. It takes like-minded people willing to invest time, energy and dollars to bring big, innovative ideas to life … to get things done. I know that all too well.
I remember when Denny Sanford took a leap of faith and invested $400 million in Sanford Health in 2007, and millions more since. We’ve come a long way and impacted a lot of lives thanks to Denny, and the generosity of so many others.
That spirit of giving is contagious. It makes the impossible, possible and replaces suffering with healing.
We hope others will continue to join us and put their faith in Sanford Health and the Lorraine Cross Award, too. Let’s keep finding cures. Let’s make a difference.