Women Philanthropists Celebrate a Night of Hope

By Allan Hutchison-Maxwell

The stories of cancer survivors connect with us on a visceral level because they ring true in our own lives. They mirror our own experiences and the experiences of our friends, family members, and loved ones. By reaching out to others who have been through the same tribulations with the disease, we create a community dedicated to beating cancer.

To fight back against the disease, women are organizing events where they can share stories, raise funds for research, and stand in solidarity with survivors. At Georgetown’s annual Women & Wine event—organized by and hosted for women —survivors, donors, and business leaders come together to celebrate life and pursue the fight against breast cancer. Proceeds from the event directly benefit Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research, established in 1989 by designer Ralph Lauren and the late Washington Post Company president Katherine Graham, as a tribute to their friend Nina Hyde, legendary fashion editor at The Washington Post.

From its beginning 12 years ago with 100 women in a room at the Palm Restaurant, Women & Wine has grown significantly, and raised a total of $2.5 million for cancer research at Georgetown Lombardi. The springtime event now features business networking, an extensive silent auction, and Georgetown doctors and scientists presenting the latest developments in cancer research to 650 attendees.

At this year’s Women & Wine, the Spirit of Life Award was presented to Susan Miller, a local business leader and mother of four who was recently diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer. The award honors a cancer survivor who exemplifies leadership in the community while promoting cancer research and awareness. In her speech at the event, Miller advocated strongly for investment in cancer research at Georgetown Lombardi: “You’re investing in hope: for you, for your children, for my four children, for your grandchildren.”

Women & Wine logoAt the volunteer-managed event, passion for the cause drives sellout crowds each year. Networking connections and word of mouth have made it a signature event for women in the Washington, D.C. area. Event co-chair Barbara McDuffie says that the passion comes from how directly women can relate to breast cancer survivors: “Through family and friends, every woman has been impacted by breast cancer—they want to attend, and make a difference.”

Growing research on gender and philanthropy points to different giving trends between men and women. For example, a 2015 report from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy notes that women increasingly engage in forms of collaborative donor models such as giving circles. More than half of giving circles in the U.S. are women-only, and many prioritize issues that impact women and girls.

Women & Wine is a modified example of this giving circle model, says Andrea Pactor of the Women’s Philanthropy Institute. “The women convene once a year to mingle, connect, and focus their attention on a cure for breast cancer. Historically, women tend to rely on each other for advice, problemsolving, and now, philanthropy. The excitement around the event, the common commitment to solving this problem, the opportunity to be with like-minded women, and the knowledge that women are making a difference—these features are why events such as Women & Wine resonate so deeply with the audience.”

Women & Wine co-chairs McDuffie and Janet Davis agree, adding that women are familiar with the struggle that breast cancer survivors have faced, and they want their philanthropic dollars to make a direct impact.

Next year’s event will be held at The Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner on April 18, 2018. Contact Sharon Courtin (sc830@georgetown.edu) to learn more.