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Column: Gary Reedy wants Cancer Society to be more relevant, well-known

By Maria Saporta
As published in the Atlanta Business Chronicle on Sept. 8, 2017

Gary Reedy, president and CEO of the American Cancer Society since April 2015, is on a mission to make the Atlanta-based nonprofit more relevant and well-known.

As a former executive of Johnson & Johnson, Reedy began volunteering with the American Cancer Society 15 years ago, joining the board in 2006.

“As a board member, it frustrated me that we were here in Atlanta, and we were not more engaged in the community,” Reedy said in an interview on Aug. 29. “Five years from now, I want everyone to know Atlanta is the headquarters of the American Cancer Society.”

Gary Reedy

Gary Reedy in his office at the American Cancer Society (Photo by Maria Saporta)

Of the 5,400 ACS employees around the country, 545 work out of the headquarters in Atlanta. According to the 2016 ranking of the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the American Cancer Society is the 22nd largest nonprofit in the country, raising nearly $810 million in private funds.

Reedy also is working to engage the business community to build a closer relationship with ACS.

No company better exemplifies the potential than Delta Air Lines.

On Sept. 9, top Delta executives will host the Hope Ball at the Delta Flight Museum, and former CEO Richard Anderson, now co-CEO and president of Amtrak, will be honored with the Hope Award.

Anderson forged the partnership with ACS – partly because of his own experience with cancer. Both his parents died of cancer when he was in college.

Dr. Douglas Graham, director of the Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, will receive the 2017 Rising Star Award. Money raised at the event will go to fight pediatric cancer.

Over its 15-year partnership, Delta has raised $12 million for the American Cancer Society, largely through employee-driven efforts.

“Delta is setting the pace for other companies,” said Reedy, adding the airline is on track to raise $2.5 million for ACS in 2017. “The Delta partnership has gotten stronger every year.”

Reedy is hoping to build equally strong relationships with other major U.S. companies.

He is in the process of forming a 15-member Global CEO Council to build closer access to the corporate community as well as provide cutting-edge ACS research and data to companies and their employees. One of the goals is to make sure people understand they can reduce the risk of getting cancer by 50 to 60 percent through lifestyle choices – not smoking, not becoming overweight and by exercising.

Although Reedy is still reaching out to some of the nation’s top CEOs to serve on the Council, Delta’s current CEO, Ed Bastian, has already agreed to serve.

That’s only one of Reedy’s tactics to create the “new” American Cancer Society.

Reedy has set a goal to double the amount of money ACS invests in cancer research by 2021. In 2016, ACS invested $120 million in research initiatives, and he would like to see that grow to a quarter billion dollars in five years.

“Right now, we are the largest private, not-for-profit funder of cancer research,” Reedy said. “The majority of it funds basic research and beginning investigators. Forty-seven of the researchers we have funded have gone on to win the Nobel Prize for Medicine.”

During the interview, Reedy’s excitement was evident when he spoke advances in cancer research, pointing to former President Jimmy Carter’s miraculous experience combatting metastatic melanoma to the brain through immunotherapy.

“For the most part, we have been involved in every major cancer breakthrough in some way,” Reedy said. “Thanks to the progress we are seeing today, I think in the next 15 years, the majority of cancers will be cured or managed as a chronic disease.”

Canada’s Louise Blais

For the past three years, Louise Blais has been Canada’s consul general in Atlanta. Her last day here will be Sept. 8 when she will move to New York City to become Canada’s ambassador and deputy permanent representative to the United Nations.

Before leaving, Blais spoke briefly to the Rotary Club of Atlanta on Aug. 28 and gave the keynote to the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta on Aug 29.

Blais clearly has become deeply connected to Atlanta.

Louise Blais

Louise Blais speaking to the Kiwanis Club of Atlanta (Photo by Maria Saporta)

“I love Atlanta,” Blais said. “I would move the United Nations here if I could.”

Asked how Atlanta could become a better city, Blais said the region can do a better job of marketing itself around the world.

“Atlanta also has to tackle public transportation and walkability,” she added. “Moving forward, it’s going to be necessary.”

Blais said Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has given her two assignments in her new UN role. First, she will lead the 2020 campaign for Canada to be placed on the prestigious UN Security Council. The 15-member council has five permanent members – the United States, France, the United Kingdom, China and Russia.

“Everybody else has to be elected,” said Blais, who added that Canada is running against Norway and Ireland for a spot on the Security Council.

Blais also will be focused on advancing Canada’s sustainability goals – Agenda 2030 – at the United Nations.

Lastly, Blais plans to keep a permanent relationship with Atlanta. Her long-term plan is to make Atlanta her second home.

Publix and hunger

Publix Super Markets announced on Aug. 29 a $5 million donation to help alleviate hunger. The donation is being made to Feeding America member food banks, schools and other nonprofit organizations focused on alleviating hunger in the Publix operating area.

The donation includes $600,000 to Georgia-based non-profits. Publix announced a $150,000 gift to the Atlanta Community Food Bank at a program with Food Bank CEO Kyle Wade.

Over the past three years, Publix Super Markets Charities has committed more than $11.5 million to hunger-related programs.

“For more than 50 years, we have been nourishing the communities in which Publix operates,” said Carol Jenkins Barnett, president of Publix Super Markets Charities. “Through these efforts, we’ve supported early education programs and the plight of the hungry and homeless, recognizing the importance of education and proper nutrition. We believe every child deserves to have hope, love and joy. Our Foundation is dedicated to giving these gifts of nourishment and hope to our communities.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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