The Power of Three

Three local physicians from the Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois (CCSI) recently joined in giving to fund the purchase of three essential research-quality scientific instruments for Millikin University’s chemistry department. The physicians — radiation oncologist Edward Elliott, M.D., and medical oncologists James Wade III, M.D., and Benjamin Esparaz, M.D. — each made their donations through their donor-advised funds established at The Community Foundation of Macon County.

The physicians’ donations came after Lori Kerans, director of major gifts for Millikin’s alumni and development office, contacted Dr. Edward Elliott last September about the possibility of financially supporting the Millikin chemistry department or MU sciences in general. Elliott, longtime radiation oncology director at CCSI, remembers asking her, “What would the opportunities be?”

The immediate answer was clear: The department’s mass spectrometer had quit working. The instrument was critical in meeting the learning needs of students in the natural sciences and in measuring up to national accreditation standards.

“The mass spectrometer rose to be an urgent need,” Kerans says. “So, I reached out to Dr. Elliott. I knew we needed someone who would feel passionate about this project, and Dr. Elliott did. It’s so important to match donors’ interests with the need. That’s when the magic happens, as it did in this case.”

Elliott immediately decided to help. He also knew how he wanted to make his donation to Millikin — by requesting a distribution from the Edward C. and Anne F. Elliott Charitable Fund, a donor-advised fund he and his wife, Anne, had established at The Community Foundation of Macon County.

“We use this fund to make our charitable contributions throughout the year because of the ease of making a gift,” he says.

Elliott also reached out to his medical partners, Drs. Wade and Esparaz, two longtime colleagues at CCSI, the largest interdisciplinary oncology/hematology practice in Illinois outside of Chicago. The practice, which was founded by Wade in 1984, provides medical oncology, hematology and radiation oncology services at multiple locations throughout Central and Southern Illinois, including its original Decatur location. Elliott, now semi-retired from CCSI, still assists the practice when needed.

“I thought if the three of us could leverage our joint giving, we could make an even greater impact,” he says. “There was absolutely no hesitation on their part.” Like Elliott, Wade and Esparaz also decided to make their donations from donor-advised funds they each had established at The Community Foundation.

Because of their science and medical backgrounds, all three physicians recognized the importance of the replacing the mass spectrometer to ensure the department’s ongoing accreditation by the American Chemical Society and to encourage academic excellence in the sciences. “It was not a desperate situation, but a vital need for the department,” Elliott says. “In general, we all felt pleased to be able to contribute in this way to Millikin, which is a wonderful asset to our community — as is The Community Foundation.”

Dr. Timothy Guasco, associate professor and chair of the Millikin chemistry department, is thankful for the new equipment. “Having an appropriate collection of modern, high-quality, functioning instrumentation is a requirement for maintaining our ACS accreditation,” he said in a post on Millikin’s website. “More importantly, it is necessary for our students to grow as scientists, to develop the hands-on skills that are necessary for their post-graduate careers and to perform novel research projects.”

Other gifts in support of the instruments’ purchase came from ADM Cares; The James Millikin Estate; Norman and Heather Hoback, both Millikin alumni; and several other individuals.

Because the entire funding for the mass spectrometer was in hand after the donors’ gifts were made, Millikin also was able to negotiate for two additional pieces of equipment to support the mass spectrometer, Kerans says. All three instruments were installed on campus before the end of spring semester and will be fully operational this fall for use by the approximately 250 Millikin students majoring in the natural sciences, including nearly 40 chemistry majors.

Since the Elliotts established their donor-advised fund at The Community Foundation of Macon County in 2007, he has become an advocate for this method of charitable giving.

“I really like the donor-advised fund concept,” he says. “It is one-stop shopping for gifting – about as straightforward a way to make a contribution as you can get. The Foundation takes care of the administrative details. The staff members there put in extra effort and are very adept making sure you reach your charitable goals.”

A Decatur resident since 1989, Elliott has successfully encouraged friends, family and colleagues to look into setting up donor-advised funds at the Community Foundation. “They dip their toe in the water, and they like it. Without question, it’s a good idea.”

Memorials Making a Positive Difference in Fighting Cancer

The three physicians who joined in giving to support Millikin University’s chemistry department (see related article, above) also joined together to establish a fund at The Community Foundation of Macon County that helps promote cancer awareness, cancer research and scholarships/continuing education for residents in our region.

Contributions to the Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois (CCSI) Charitable Fund and Scholarship Program Fund Initially came as memorial gifts to the practice from patients’ family members and friends. Subsequently, corporate support and donations from other individuals have also helped the fund grow. Edward Elliott, M.D., is a member of the committee that approves recommendations for funding distributions.

“The fund serves as a locus for these memorial gifts,” Elliott says, noting that the fund is used to support several cancer-related activities, including Cancer Survivors Day, American Cancer Society Relay for Life and other events and programs that create awareness and provide education for cancer patients and their families. Another important priority for the fund’s disbursements is providing educational opportunities for individuals currently in or pursuing careers in oncology or hematology services.

For more information or to donate to this fund, call The Community Foundation of Macon County at 217.429.3000 during regular business hours or visit www.maconcountygives.org/funds and select the Cancer Care Specialists of Illinois Charitable Fund.