A Unique and Valuable Partner
The Dr. Cyrus Katzen Foundation, Inc. has been a unique and valuable partner of The Children’s Inn at NIH for more than four years, helping The Inn create practical long-term programs while also ensuring its continued operation through the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Started by Dr. Cyrus Katzen in 1993, the Foundation reflects the late Dr. Katzen’s strong interests in philanthropy and cancer research, using a strategic focus to find meaningful ways to make a difference.
After its inception, the Foundation made one of its first substantial donations to George Washington University to create the Dr. Cyrus and Myrtle Katzen Cancer Research Center. Its goal was to enhance the recruitment of top scholars in the field and the development of innovative approaches to battling and treating cancer. As it became integrated into the medical community, the Foundation also became involved with the pediatric cancer researchers at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C.
Soon, childhood cancer became a particular focus of the Katzen Foundation. Though support for research that would lead to a cure remained at the core of its mission, the Foundation found ways to use its strategic vision to improve the lives of children and their families already suffering from the disease.
Millard Bennett, who became involved with the Foundation as Dr. Katzen’s attorney and is now one of its Board members, described the path that brought the Foundation and The Children’s Inn together.
“The Katzen Foundation became uniquely focused on trying to be very strategic in providing seed money for programs that it believed, if successful, could become self-sustaining within the next few years,” Bennett explained.
Most Board members for the Katzen Foundation live in Montgomery County and were familiar with The Children’s Inn. In 2019, the Board arranged their first official visit to The Inn. “We asked [The Inn], ‘If money were to fall from the sky one time, what program do you have in the works that is not being funded and has an opportunity to succeed, and if so, become self-sustaining?’ Bennett described. “We wanted it to be something very significant to the child’s experience while they are being treated.”
The Inn returned to The Foundation with an idea that had been in the works for quite some time, but had not yet reached the scale they had been hoping to achieve: a personalized airport transportation program. Since The Children’s Inn opened its doors in 1990, families have come to The Inn from 106 countries and all 50 states. To get there, many of them fly into the Washington, D.C. area for the first time and have difficulty navigating their way through the airport and to the Bethesda campus of the National Institutes of Health. The transportation program would remove a number of barriers for these families, getting them to and from airports to make their visits to The Inn as smooth and simple as possible.
The program was an instant success, so much so that it was able to be funded and included in the annual budget of The Inn after the Katzen Foundation provided its seed funding. And thus began a trusting partnership, spurring other creative ways to work together.
By then, the COVID-19 pandemic had hit and life at The Inn was adjusting to strict safety protocols that limited contact with outside visitors. Volunteers, who had given their time and resources to sponsoring and serving meals to the families, were no longer allowed at The Inn. When the Foundation asked The Inn how else they could help, the answer came back quickly.
“Food,” Bennett said. “They didn’t have the volunteers coming in to be able to provide the food for the families staying at the Inn during COVID, so the Foundation indicated that instead of seed money for a program that year, the Foundation offered to provide funds to help the Inn continue to provide meals for the families during that period.”
Last year, the Katzen Foundation worked with Inn staff to create a strategic fund that allowed for experimentation on new and improved ways to serve Inn families. So far, the fund has enabled the acquisition of a robotic room cleaner and the testing of new room options as The Inn prepares for a renovation over the next few years. The Foundation also answered the call by helping meet a required State of Maryland match in private funding for a $1.4 million bond to renovate The Inn.
“It has been very gratifying to the Board members of the Foundation that in each of the recommendations that The Inn has made, and we have funded, the goal has been met,” Bennett said. “Things have succeeded.”
There is an overwhelming awe that we have for the children and their families and care providers.”Millard Bennett
The Inn’s partnership with the Dr. Cyrus Katzen Foundation has helped to improve the lives of the families staying there, from easing the burden of travel to providing meals to reimagining better living spaces in The Inn of Tomorrow. Ultimately, even more than the dedication of The Inn to make the programs work, it is the inspiration provided by the families that has cemented the partnership in the eyes of the Foundation.
“There is an overwhelming awe that we have for the children and their families and care providers,” Bennett said. “The courage the kids have and how they move forward is very compelling.”
The Board of Trustees for the Foundation, he described, is full of compassionate and empathetic members who are dedicated to its vision, often carrying that over into their individual efforts.
Thank you to the Dr. Cyrus Katzen Foundation for your partnership and support!