Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Wednesdays at Michael's by Diane Clehane

The Geoffrey Beene Foundation & Actor Kellan Lutz Unveil Artistic Campaign for New Cancer Research

Diane Clehane and Kellan Lutz
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This week’s lunch at Michael’s is one that is very close to my heart. Having lost both my parents to cancer many years ago, I was more than happy to arrange a meeting between a few of my fellow reporters and the hearts, minds and souls behind The Geoffrey Beene Foundation and the company’s brand ambassador actor Kellan Lutz to talk about their latest groundbreaking initiative “Frame This … Revelations,” created to raise awareness about the need for increased funding for new cancer research through art created by artists with cancer. 



Tom Hutton, sole trustee of the Geoffrey Beene Foundation and president and CEO of Geoffrey Beene and his wife, Mara Hutton, EVP of The Geoffrey Beene Foundation hosted an engaging and enlightening lunch on Table One that brought together Geoffrey Beene brand ambassador actor Kellan Lutz,  Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue and scientist Debyani Chakravarty, Ph.D., Jonathan Amihud, MSK’s public affairs social media strategist, Cool Gray Seven’s Gavin Manley and artist Kym Rampa with Keenan Mayo, executive editor of Best Life, People magazine’s Maggie Parker and entertainment reporter Rob Shuter. It was a terrific group.

While the rest of the room was busy air-kissing and power lunching, everyone at our table was deep in a wide-ranging conversation that covered, among other things, the devastating effects of cancer on patients and their families, the little-known facts about the importance of clinical trials and how celebrity can and should be leveraged in messaging about important causes in the age of social media. 

I don’t mind telling you there were more than a few tears shed, especially when we learned that Kym, the first artist to participate in “Frame This … Revelations,” is battling a very rare type of uterine cancer and recently suffered a setback in her treatment. She is now awaiting word on whether she qualifies to participate in a new clinical trial. As Kym recounted her experience visiting Dr. Christine Iacobuzio-Donahue’s laboratory at MSK, we were rendered silent as she bravely recalled what it was like seeing images of her actual tumor for the first time. “It’s hard to put into words what it felt like,” she told us. “But with art, those feelings can come out. I’m glad I have that talent [to paint] and I could do it.” After her visit, she created a stunning painting on a six-foot high, seven-foot wide canvas of a crashing wave with an empty life-jacket floating nearby.

When someone asked why Kym might not possibly be eligible for the aforementioned trial, Christine explained there are many aspects that go into those determinations – and often times, it’s a matter of “economy.” In addition, drug companies often have very narrow parameters for qualifications for their trials making people that fit even slightly outside the requirements ineligible. Christine also explained that simply writing a grant application [for funds needed for trials] is “so much work” and can take many months to be approved. Those delays not only frustrate doctors, but can cost people their lives. “We know what needs to be done, so if we get the money, we can just go ahead and do it,” she said.

Debyani, a scientist who matches MSK patients with trials, added a greater awareness of their potentially life-saving potential is essential. “Too many people don’t know often their best hope is with clinical trials. Only three percent of the population enrolls in clinical trials.”

The Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center has conducted over 113 separate new research initiatives/investigations across all cancers resulting in multiple major breakthroughs in cancer therapies. In addition, they have funded 16 shared resource grants - these are grants which provide highly technical equipment to enable precision scientific research. Tom told us that The Center receives over 100 requests for funding every year and makes approved funds available sometimes in as little as three months.

All of this made it even more apparent to the assembled group that the work The Geoffrey Beene Foundation is doing to raise funds and awareness about the importance of new cancer research is incredibly important. Mara and Tom are committed to making “Frame This … Revelations” a powerful part of that strategy. The just-launched campaign was Mara’s brainchild and has issued a call to action to artists battling cancer to apply to visit the labs at The Geoffrey Beene Cancer Center at Memorial Sloan Kettering and channel their impressions and emotions into art that will help raise awareness about the need for continued funding for new cancer research and for the importance of showing empathy towards those battling the disease.

“The campaign’s slogan is ‘Have a sense of Human,’ explained Mara to the table. “One in three women’s lives are effected by cancer and for men, it’s one in two. It’s an epidemic.”

The goal, said Mara, is to have sixteen artists from every discipline – “painters, sculptors, writers” – create work that reflects their own battle with cancer that would then be part of a specially mounted exhibition that would potentially be featured on dioramas around the country much like the Foundation did with their Rock Stars of Science a few years ago which paired the scientists at The Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center with Aerosmith’s Joe Perry in national PSA campaign.

“We created the “Frame This … Revelations” campaign for the Geoffrey Beene Foundation as a continuation of our ongoing mission to save lives through the support of new cancer research,” explained Tom. “The concept of using artists and creative talents is that they can frame the artist’s truth about the insidious destruction cancer inflicts on the physical, psychological and emotional aspects of their lives, including their families and friends. We want to stop suffering and save lives.”

They have enlisted brand ambassador Kellan Lutz to help get the word out about the campaign. Kellan is already the ‘face’ of the brand and currently appears in the print advertising campaign aptly titled ‘Man on a Mission’ that has run in men’s magazines including Men’s Fitness. There’s also a television spot that plays off Kellan’s action hero persona. The actor flew in from Los Angeles earlier this week to do a jam-packed media day that included a taped segment on “Frame This … Revelations” on Good Day New York which will air on Friday morning and an interview with WWD. He is also going to meet with the scientists in The Geoffrey Beene Cancer Research Center to get a first-hand look into the science behind the breakthroughs.

When asked why he decided to get involved with The Geoffrey Beene Foundation, Kellan said that he and Tom and Mara had a shared interest in supporting those causes that have meant the most to them having first met six years ago at a benefit in Los Angeles for Saving Innocence, an organization working to stop human trafficking and the sexual exploitation. “When I met them, I loved their passion.”

“I know it takes money and I know I’m an ‘influencer,’” said Kellan using air-quotes to make his point. “When I talk about cancer and the need for funding on social media and I hear back from fans and they share their story, they feel heard and I feel like I’m making a difference.”

He continued, “I lost my grandmother and my uncle, my mother’s only brother, to cancer. I’ve always felt it was important to give back in meaningful ways. Being a celebrity, I have a platform and they needed a platform. It was very organic.”

With over 1 million followers on Twitter with whom he is very actively engaged, Kellan has the potential to mobilize millennials to make this cause their own – and encourage other artists and creatives to apply to be part of the program.

Before the group said their good-byes, Mara stressed that every contribution – no matter how small can go a long way in the fight against cancer. “If you’re going to wage a war on cancer you have to fund it,” she said. “If everyone donated a dollar it would help. We’d love them to donate more, but every dollar counts towards funding new research.  And if you’re an artist with cancer or know one, go to our foundation's website and apply. We need everyone to get involved!”



Scene & Heard Around the Room

Michael Mailer on Table Two … Andrew Stein on Three … British Heritage Travel’s CEO Jack Kliger just back from Montreal on Four … Dr. Gerald Imber, Jerry Della Femina and Jeff Greenfield on Table Six … New York Social Diary’s David Patrick Columbia at his usual perch, Table Eight … Producer Beverly Camhe on Twelve … NBC’s David Corvo on Fourteen … United Stations Radio’s Nick Verbitsky on Sixteen … LAK PR CEO Lisa Linden with Cushman Wakefield’s Harry BlairEric Margolis from the Toronto Sun on Twenty-three.

I’ll be on location next week. See you at Michael’s in two weeks!

- Diane Clehane


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