In Their Own Words: Pat Palumbo
The V Foundation is successful thanks to the contributions of many: donors, corporate partners, our incredible Board and Scientific Advisory Committee and the amazing researchers to whom we award grants. With “In Their Own Words,” we sit down with key members of our team to learn more about their commitment to the V Foundation and their personal desire to put an end to cancer. In this edition, we chat with Pat Palumbo, who has joined forces with Tony Award winner Christian Hoff to create “Tony Night at The Palm”, which benefits the V Foundation.
The V Foundation: How has cancer affected you?
Pat Palumbo: Most immediately, my mom’s battle with cancer had the greatest effect. My mom had been treated for basal cell carcinoma since the early 80’s and in 1999 she was diagnosed with cancer of the vulva. Testing revealed that the cancer had metastasized, and we were advised going into surgery that the prognosis was not positive. After surgery, my mom was among the first to try Interferon treatment and went into remission. This gave her several more years for her to spend with her family, especially with her grandchildren. In 2004, a complication from a cardiac catheterization resulted in renal failure, and eventually a reoccurrence of cancer in the gall bladder and pancreas which led to her death. In the years following, my share of family members and friends fighting cancer has strengthened my need to fight. We have lost that battle for some, but for some we have gotten to remission. I am determined to play a part in the horrid “Big C” being eradicated.
TVF: When did you first meet Christian Hoff and what has allowed you two to work so well together?
PP: We met at the VIP reception for the Drama Desk Awards in 2006. Everyone was gushing over “The Jersey Boys” and I told Christian that I couldn’t comment yet as I was seeing Jersey Boys the following week. I think my being the one person not lauding him, and letting him know I would withhold approval until I saw the show, made an impression! He asked me to make sure to let him know what I thought at the stage door after the play, so I did and the rest is history! I think we work so well together because we share the belief that you should always lead with “How can I serve?” We, over the years, have become family, covering both coasts! One day he called to let me know of his involvement with the V Foundation Wine Celebration, and began to share his introduction through family as well as his participation in the cause. He had been invited to be a member of the board at the Wine Celebration, and I shared that Coach V was the basketball coach at Iona when I was a student there. I knew him from my college job at Allen’s Sport Shop in New Rochelle where “his guys” came in for sneakers. Serendipity – I was on board!
TVF: This year will be your third Tony Night at The Palm to benefit the V Foundation. What have you learned from this event the first two years and how has that changed how you are planning the event for this year?
PP: The very first Tony Night at the Palm was truly an “on the fly” event. Christian’s history in the Broadway community, as well as his legacy as a Tony Award-winning actor, gave us an obvious advantage and tie in. We had done a quick fundraiser with our friends at Palm West, NYC in their bar area where the management donated their tips to the V Foundation. The success of that event inspired us to hold our first Tony Night viewing party that had about 60 guests. Last year, at our second annual event, we were expecting about 80 guests and by the night of the event that number had grown to 106! A bit crowded, but definitely an encouragement to grow the event even further. At the end of the night in 2017 we realized that for the 2018 event we would need to expand to the main dining room! This year we are looking to host 120 guests, and aiming to book the full restaurant next year! If you combine a good cause with something people connect with you can create a successful experience.
TVF: What advice would you give someone who wants to create an event to raise money for cancer research but isn’t sure how to get started?
PP: Be passionate! Think about what makes you happy and work from there. Find friends that share your passion and creativity to drive and support you. Also, when finding a group to partner with, look for one whose message resonates with you. For me, the V Foundation was a perfect fit because of my connection with Coach V. When Christian approached me about doing an event to support the V, the personal connection made the work even more meaningful for me.
TVF: What does a Victory Over Cancer® look like to you?
PP: Time. Time to share, to learn, to connect. After losing friends, family members, and especially my mother to cancer I have learned that the biggest wish is for more time. This inspires me each day. The thought, “if today were your last day,” fuels my passion to communicate, to connect and to be present to those I love. Each time the V Foundation supports research that allows people to have more time – I know that the support truly does make a difference. This makes it a true honor and pleasure to consider myself a part of the V family!
To find more information or buy tickets to the event, visit the Tony Night at The Palm website.