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Across the Spectrum

Promise -

Foundation lends its support to the young and the old

By Miriam Smith

 James Archer, far right, enjoys a quick game of foosball during a recent visit to the MD Anderson Children's Cancer Hospital with business partner Jorge Velarde,
in-hospital school principal Shanicca Joshua and patient Santi Araoz. Photo by John Everett

If James Archer had it his way, he’d spend most of his time at his ranch in Sonora, Texas, population 2,893.

“I like driving tractors, and sometimes I just like riding around and looking at animals,” he says. “I mostly like to hunt deer and occasionally elk.”

In March, the rancher, businessman and philanthropist paid a third visit to his other favorite place in the Lone Star State, MD Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital (CCH).

“Visiting MD Anderson and touring the floors has been really touching,” he says, pausing to hold back a tear.

Archer stopped by to see how his recent $4 million gift is improving the quality of care for childhood cancer patients. He met with some of the researchers and staff who benefit from his funding. Lois, Archer’s wife of 18 years, was in the couple’s hometown of San Angelo welcoming the birth of their 10th grandchild.

“Maybe it’s after I’m gone that one of these grandkids may encounter cancer,” says Archer. “Maybe by then we’ll have done a small part to help MD Anderson develop new techniques and new ideas that will help researchers cure childhood cancer or at least extend the lives of these young people.”

Jorge Velarde, Archer’s longtime business partner, attended the visit as well. Two of his immediate family members were treated at MD Anderson.

“The experience both patients and their families have at MD Anderson is extremely positive,” Velarde says. “We’re humbled by what MD Anderson does, and we’re glad we can participate in a small way.”

 James Archer and his wife, Lois, enjoy time on their ranch in Sonora, Texas. Photo courtesy of James Archer.

Half of the Archers’ gift supports various areas of the CCH, including ON to Life, which optimizes nutrition and establishes healthy eating habits for pediatric cancer patients, survivors and their families.

“There’s no other funding for this. It has to come from philanthropy,” says Eugenie Kleinerman, M.D., division head of Pediatrics. “The National Institutes of Health isn’t enthusiastic about nutrition, but we think it’s really important.”

The Archers’ gift also funds the Pediatric Education & Creative Arts Program, MD Anderson’s in-hospital, private school that focuses on K-12 education and school reentry (see related story).

“Every child who comes here for treatment has access to a school reentry specialist who follows them from diagnosis into survivorship with any school-related issues,” says Shanicca Joshua, principal of the CCH school. “We’re thankful for James and Lois because without their funding, we’d never be able to help every single child that comes through this hospital.”

“Our work with the CCH isn’t just about having beds for the kids. It’s about taking care to another dimension,” says Velarde.

The other half of the Archers’ gift goes to the Neurodegeneration Consortium, a collaboration of MD Anderson, Baylor College of Medicine and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to advance the study and treatment of Alzheimer’s and chemotherapy induced neuropathy.

“Lois’s mother died of Alzheimer’s, so we’re concerned about it as we get older,” Archer says.

The Archers founded the James B. & Lois R. Archer Charitable Foundation in late 2011, only a month after Archer sold his oilfield services company, Multi-Chem, to Halliburton.

They plan to build a long term partnership with MD Anderson, one they’re confident will help people around the world.

“We wanted to make a difference in saving people’s lives,” Archer explains. “Since we made that our focus, my life has changed. It was never about me, but now it’s really about helping others.”

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© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center