MD Anderson’s corporate alliances across the nation are making a difference for cancer patients and their loved ones everywhere. Grassroots fundraising campaigns not only raise awareness of and support for MD Anderson’s mission to end cancer; they engage employees in a meaningful way. This is clearly the case for Walmart, the largest retail corporation in the world, which joined forces with MD Anderson in 2017 at the suggestion of MD Anderson Cancer Center Board of Visitors Member Eric Zorn.
From collecting change at every register, to hosting in-store bake sales for employees, to organizing fun activities to encourage customers to donate in stores, Walmart’s campaign for MD Anderson is its second largest in total dollars raised for a nonprofit. Since this corporate alliance began, Walmart, its employees and customers have given more than $2.3 million to support cancer research and education at MD Anderson.
“Cancer does not discriminate. Just about everyone, including our own associates and their families and friends, has been impacted by cancer somehow,” says Nick Berkeley, vice president and regional general manager of Walmart. “It is a devastating disease that can strike anyone at any moment, and we are committed to doing what we can to support the fight to find a cure.”
Focus on Community
With this in mind, Walmart began supporting MD Anderson’s Boot Walk to End Cancer® three years ago to engage employees — and customers — in supporting a worthy cause. “Walmart believes that strengthening local communities creates value — for our business as well as society,” Berkeley says. The culture of Walmart has always been one that supports community development, education and leadership. In June 2020, Walmart unveiled a new initiative that will influence and promote change in society more broadly through a new center on racial equity. This is just one of the important strides this organization is taking to effect change in the U.S.
“We are thankful for Walmart leaders and associates whose outstanding efforts have helped raise more than $2.3 million,” says Peter WT Pisters, M.D., president of MD Anderson. “We value Walmart’s generous support of MD Anderson and their incredible work in the community to help end cancer.”
Participating stores and neighborhood markets across the greater Houston area have raised dollars through the Boot Walk to fund the Walmart First-Year Medical Students Summer Program endowment. Distributions from the endowment support first-year medical students participating in MD Anderson’s Partnership for Careers in Cancer Science and Medicine program, currently led by Elizabeth L. Travis, Ph.D., professor of Experimental Radiation Oncology and Pulmonary Medicine and vice president for Women and Minority Faculty Inclusion. The overall goal of the program is to build a network that uses a multifaceted approach to attract, develop and nurture underrepresented individuals across the entire academic science and medicine spectrum, from high school students through faculty appointments.
Funds raised through MD Anderson’s corporate alliance with Walmart have also supported the following programs:
- The Center for Energy Balance in Cancer Prevention and Survivorship, currently led by Karen Basen-Engquist, Ph.D., professor of Behavioral Science, and Joya Chandra, Ph.D., associate professor of Pediatrics. The center, which received funds that extended the scope and reach of its programs, produces practice-changing results to modify unhealthy behaviors in people at risk for cancer, patients and survivors.
- An immunotherapy project, currently led by Milind Javle, M.D., professor of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology. Javle’s research is focused on improving outcomes for patients with liver and biliary cancers who have specific genetic mutations.
- The Early Detection of Ovarian Cancer initiative, currently led by Robert C. Bast, Jr., M.D., vice president for Translational Research, and Karen H. Lu, M.D., chair of Gynecologic Oncology and Reproductive Medicine. This program, which aims to develop a blood test that can detect ovarian cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable, relies on philanthropic support to sustain an ongoing clinical trial.
Walmart funding could not have arrived at a better time for the ovarian screening trial. When COVID-19 hit, Bast and Lu were unsure whether philanthropic support would continue. “We were amazed when the Walmart funds showed up at a most critical time,” Bast says. “These dollars help ensure our ability to maintain the trial for another two years.”
While Walmart’s support of MD Anderson helps us advance vital education and research programs, it can be just as meaningful for Walmart employees who participate in raising these funds.
"Our associates love this campaign and dedicate themselves to finding creative ways to fundraise in our stores. Their passion and dedication to meeting our annual fundraising goal are driven by helping give hope to so many people from Houston and from all over the country,” Berkeley says. “On behalf of the thousands of Walmart associates working in stores from Houston to San Antonio, we appreciate MD Anderson’s tireless efforts to end cancer and thank them for joining us in our mission to help people live better.”