He Raised A Great Deal of Money To Fight Pancreatic Cancer

He Raised A Great Deal of Money To Fight Pancreatic Cancer


Randy Dobbs Had Underestimated The Power of Asking A Simple Question

Written Julia Brabant
December 2019

He was last to take the stage in a long lineup of speakers, but what Randy Dobbs did once he got there was something few in attendance will ever forget. Having flown into Phoenix, Arizona, earlier that day from the East Coast, Randy’s turn to speak followed those of numerous others, including pancreatic cancer physicians, researchers and and patient survivors who had come together for the 17th Annual Seena Magowitz Foundation Golf Classic in November, 2019. The 3-day Celebration of Hope and its series of fun-filled events that serves as the nonprofit organization’s largest annual fundraiser.

Randy’s turn at the mic at the “Discovery Dinner: also followed a speech made by Seena Magowitz Foundation Founder Roger Magowitz’s wife, Jeanne, who, earlier in the evening, had spoken about a motto held dear by both her husband and his mother, Seena, the foundation’s namesake.

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get,” Jeanne had said, referencing the words Roger’s mother had always lived by, which Roger took to heart in the early days of establishing the foundation and held tight to ever since. Randy Dobbs was about to demonstrate just how much he took that message to heart – and just how far his subsequent efforts carried fight against pancreatic cancer in a surprising big way.

Randy, an immensely successful businessman, author, mentor and motivational speaker, has been one of the most vocal and ardent supporters in the fight against the devastating disease, and for good reason – his daughter, Elizabeth O’Connor, received her Stage 4 pancreatic cancer diagnosis at age 30 and has battled the disease ever since. In the days, months and years following Elizabeth’s diagnosis, her dad became her biggest advocate, even leaving his own lucrative job to help her through her battle. And he didn’t just attend her appointments and help her manage her symptoms – he considered his own strengths, which included a penchant for public speaking and access to a wide, well-connected professional network – and went to work leveraging them accordingly.

He became a prolific public speaker within the pancreatic cancer community, speaking at numerous Seena Magowitz Foundation and similar events, and joined the advisory board at the Translational Genomics Research Institute, a nonprofit institute led by Dr. Daniel Von Hoff focused on employing genetic discoveries to improve the outcomes for pancreatic cancer patients and other battling deadly diseases. Randy continued his advocacy efforts for years, all the while assisting his own daughter as she navigated the ups and downs of her personal pancreatic cancer battle. Somehow, though, Randy still felt as if he wasn’t doing quite enough.

What he did next, he detailed upon taking the stage at the 2019 edition of the Seena Magowitz Foundation Celebration of Hope, which unites physicians, researchers, fundraisers and advocates with pancreatic cancer survivors and their families. Though jet-lagged, Randy was not about to let the evening wrap up without first letting the audience in on his surprise, and as it turned out, the event organizers had a surprise in store for Randy, as well.

First, though, Randy had a story to tell, and it was one that would ultimately change the game for the future of pancreatic cancer research.

Randy began by speaking about the fact that, while he devoted himself wholeheartedly to helping fight pancreatic cancer since the day or his daughter’s diagnosis, he’d never felt particularly comfortable asking people for favors or money. However, watching his own daughter’s cancer battle had humbled him and helped him let go of his hesitations. Taking a queue from foundation founder Roger and his mother, Seena, he decided that if he didn’t ask the questions, he’d never get the results he wanted. So, with that, he drafted a letter to over 70 colleagues detailing his daughter’s long-term pancreatic cancer battle, its impact on the entire family and the efforts of Dr. Daniel Von Hoff and others in their efforts to extend quality of life for patients and to ultimately eradicate this brutal disease.

He asked his friends and colleagues to consider donating to the cause, noting that he, in turn, would match any donations made. He hit “send” on the email, keeping his expectations in check about the anticipated response, but as it turned out, he’d underestimated the power of asking a simple question.

“Here’s what I received in response,” Randy proclaimed, revealing a massive batch of envelopes he’d received in the days and weeks following his email. The visual, itself, was an impressive one, but it paled in comparison to the one that followed.

Randy then revealed a check so large it required several people to hold it, which showed just how much he was able to secure once he committed to asking for assistance. In total, Randy’s effort secured more than $210,000 for pancreatic cancer research, which was far more than Randy had initially planned to match. He’s a man of his word, though, so the final check he presented to TGen’s Dr. Daniel Von Hoff totaled more than $421,000.

It was a moment to remember in an evening filled with many of them, and while it saddened Randy that his daughter couldn’t be there in person due to existing travel and treatment demands, the surprises didn’t stop there.

Within a few moments, Elizabeth’s face appeared in front of the crowd via video conference, even though it was long after midnight in Georgia, where she and her family lived.

Still awake and smiling, Elizabeth acknowledged her father’s efforts and thanked all the donors and advocates in attendance across the room. She also also did something even more impactful: she showed the 22 pancreatic cancer patients in attendance the smiling and hopeful face of a survivor who had recently turned 40 years old – almost 10 years, to the day, that doctors told her she had mere months to live.

It was a powerful conclusion to an emotional evening and a poignant moment in a weekend that celebrates the successes of patients, doctors and researchers. It also raised an important question: if the actions of one man, alone, can make a $431,000 impact in the fight against pancreatic cancer, can we create a more rapid pace to an eventual cure if more people would adapt the “IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T GET” philosophy?

Of course, it’s not everyday that a man like Randy Dobbs can be surprised with such a great result. But if we can motivate many others to implement “IF YOU DON’T ASK, YOU DON’T GET”campaigns that would generate just $500, we could create an even faster pace of innovative medical research discoveries that would save lives.

Read Randy Dobbs’ Story

Read Elizabeth O’Connor’s Story

Pancreatic Cancer Patient Story

Read The Original Story Here