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M. D. Anderson Chaplaincy Benefit Honors Jack Blanton Sr., Sam Donaldson and Jan Smith Donaldson and Rabbi Sa

M. D. Anderson Chaplaincy Benefit Honors Jack Blanton Sr., Sam Donaldson and Jan Smith Donaldson and Rabbi Samuel Karff
Annual Fundraiser Benefits In-House Spirituality Support Services
M. D. Anderson News Release, 10/29/03

The 11th annual “Loving Hearts and Caring Hands” awards dinner, benefiting the Department of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, will honor four individuals on Nov. 4 at the Westin Galleria Hotel at 5060 West Alabama.

The event, which celebrates the department’s more than 500,000 pastoral visits to M. D. Anderson patients, caregivers and staff during the past three decades, will honor Houston business and civic leader Jack S. Blanton Sr., Washington veteran journalists Sam Donaldson and Jan Smith Donaldson, and Rabbi Samuel E. Karff, rabbi emeritus of the Congregation Beth Israel.

Chairing this year’s event is Madelyn von Eschenbach, president of the Chaplaincy Fund, Inc., which provides funding for the department’s pastoral care, education and research programs. Von Eschenbach has been instrumental in organizing the event for nearly a decade.

“Loving Hearts and Caring Hands” has raised more than $1.5 million for M. D. Anderson’s 24-hour, in-house spiritual support program. The Department of Chaplaincy offers 14 different worship services per week, as well as pastoral care and daily prayer and support groups for patients and their families. Such groups provide strength and spiritual guidance regarding specific concerns such as the anxieties of surgery, dealing with grief, children with cancer, end-of-life issues and others.

“We are extremely inter-faith-oriented because our patient and staff population is very diverse, not only in our faith groups, but ethnically as well,” says Rev. Alfred Merwald, director of the Department of Chaplaincy and Pastoral Education.

“Because we see patients from around the world, we are charged with providing pastoral care in a multitude of religions, and if we can’t do that personally, we have outside resources to make sure the needs of our patients and caregivers are met,” he continued.

In addition to providing patients with support that spans virtually every denomination, the pastoral education offered through the department prepares individuals for ministry at hospitals and the outside community.

“We are grateful for the generosity of the Chaplaincy Fund through ‘Loving Hearts and Caring Hands’ because it funds almost all of our education programs,” says Merwald. “We are currently researching spiritual pathways to determine if patients’ pastoral needs vary with disease site, and we are finding that they are indeed different. These preliminary findings enable us to sculpt pastoral care to best meet our patients’ specific needs.”

The honorees for the evening include the president of Eddy Refining Company, Jack S. Blanton Sr.,  former chairman of the Houston Endowment, Inc., one of the largest foundations in Texas. He is the former chairman of the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System and has served as director for several companies including the SBC Corporation, the Ashland Oil Company, Texas Commerce Bancshares, Baker Hughes Inc., Burlington Northern Corporation, Inc. and Pogo Producing Company.

The Blanton-Davis Ovarian Cancer Research Program was created at M. D. Anderson in 1996, and named after Blanton’s late wife, Laura Lee Scurlock Blanton, and also Sandra G. Davis. The aim of the program is to develop innovative research into the causes, prevention, detection and treatment of ovarian cancer.

Washington journalists Sam Donaldson and Jan Smith Donaldson will be honored as well. A 36-year news veteran who covered the White House under three administrations, Sam Donaldson now hosts “The Sam Donaldson Show – Live in America.” He also has hosted “This Week with Sam Donaldson and Cokie Roberts,” as well as “PrimeTime Live.” He has been awarded four Emmy Awards and a George Foster Peabody Award.

Jan Smith Donaldson has worked as a correspondent for CNN’s “Newsstand,” and as a national correspondent for WTTG-TV in Washington.

The Donaldsons are active cancer research advocates after Mr. Donaldson’s diagnosis with melanoma and the diagnoses of cancer in other family members. Donaldson is an active participant in the National Dialogue on Cancer and serves on the board of directors for Research America. Smith Donaldson has been actively involved in raising funds for cancer research by chairing the gala for the Cancer Research Foundation of America in Washington, D.C.

Rabbi Samuel Karff became rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel in 1999 after serving his congregation for 24 years as senior rabbi.  Karff currently serves as an adjunct professor of society and health, lecturing on “Health and the Human Spirit” at The University of Texas Health Science Department of Religious Studies at Rice University. He also serves on the board of directors for the Institute of Religion, Texas Medical Center — Houston, the Coalition for Mutual Respect and the Anti-Defamation League. Karff is an active volunteer at M. D. Anderson, where he has lectured and led discussions with chaplaincy residents on spirituality and healthcare. 

“The ‘Loving Hearts and Caring Hands’ awards dinner and auction is important not only because it provides community awareness of M. D. Anderson’s chaplaincy program, but because it is instrumental in expanding and financing the program,” says von Eschenbach. “The department is extremely important to the institution — not only to patients and their families, but to staff as well.”

For more information on the awards dinner, please call (281) 890-3597.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center