Too Many Candles to Count

Photo: Stephen Travarca

You know what they say: It’s better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.

Granted, it’s customary to blow out candles on birthdays and other special occasions. But as Cleveland Clinic commemorates its 100th anniversary, I find myself contemplating instead all the candles that we’ve been able to light — with your help — over the past century. Too many candles to count.

Frank Bunts, MD; George Crile Sr., MD; WilliamLower, MD; and John Phillips, MD, weren’t the darkness-cursing type. Rather, the visionary physicians who founded Cleveland Clinic emerged from World War I with a bold dream: Create a new kind of multispecialty group practice that would be a shining example for other healthcare providers.

Today, their dream shines on, thanks to all of you whose generosity sustains our mission.

Mort Mandel, an important mentor to me, often spoke about doing good in terms of lighting candles, too. “Anybody can light a candle,” he said shortly before he passed away in 2019 at the age of 98. “It just has to be a good deed. It’s not about fame. It’s not about fortune. Success is when you look in the mirror and you see a good person.”

As Cleveland Clinic celebrates the century-spanning legacy of forward-thinking patient care, research and education that fills this special issue of Cleveland Clinic Magazine, I celebrate all the good people who are co-authors of our success.

I'm thinking of people like Rita and Dave Kiser. Their grandson Josh was born prematurely and spent the first six weeks of his life in the neonatal intensive care unit at Cleveland Clinic Fairview Hospital. Today, he's a healthy kindergartner. In honor of Josh's recent 5th birthday, Rita and Dave made a gift to Cleveland Clinic Children's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, a level 3 NICU that can provide care for the sickest and smallest newborns.

I’m thinking of people like Laura Frank and Leigh Anne Best. Their Brakes for Breasts campaign has rallied auto-repair shops across North America to raise more than $1 million over the past 10 years to support the work of immunologist Vincent Tuohy, PhD, and his team at Cleveland Clinic’s Lerner Research Institute, where they’re developing a vaccine for preventing breast cancer.

I’m thinking of people like Alex May. He came to Cleveland Clinic from his home in Arkansas for successful mitral valve repair. In gratitude, Alex and his wife, Sara, made a gift to support advancements in robot-assisted surgery, paying it forward for other cardiovascular patients.

Candlelighters, one and all.

I’m so grateful for all of you who already give so generously of your time, talent and treasure for Cleveland Clinic — and for all of you who will step up as we enter the home stretch of our Power of Every One Centennial Campaign. Thank you for helping us save lives and change lives. Thank you for sharing our commitment to advancing vital research and to educating future generations of caregivers. And thank you for making it possible for us to keep lighting more and more candles.

The darkness doesn’t stand a chance.

Lara A. Kalafatis is Chair of Cleveland Clinic's Philanthropy Institute.