Community Conversations

How two people have made a big difference in blood cancer research

Greg Ward was named “2019 Man of the Year” in the Miami fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Ward raised $516,000 to help find cures and access to treatments for all blood cancer patients.
Greg Ward was named “2019 Man of the Year” in the Miami fundraising campaign for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Ward raised $516,000 to help find cures and access to treatments for all blood cancer patients.

Five years after Robert “Robbie” Roesler de Villiers died of leukemia at age 16 in 1944, his family decided to do something to help others. There were few effective treatments in those days and most leukemia patients, especially children, died within months.

When Robbie’s parents, Rudolph and Antoinette de Villiers, started the fundraising and education organization in their son’s name, the budget was small and there were few volunteers.

But the de Villiers persisted and they remained driven by the belief that the disease could be cured.

Their little New York office expanded and grew, and many community chapters were formed to find treatments for this stubborn disease.

Today, the world’s largest voluntary nonprofit health agency dedicated to blood cancer is known as the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

This summer, the Miami Chapter held a sold-out gala to recognize dedicated volunteers and name its winning fundraisers in the “Local Man & Woman of the Year Campaign.”

Greg Ward, a partner with the Ward Law Group in Miami, raised $516,000 and was named “Man of the Year.”

Annette Arango was named “Woman of the Year” for raising $64,029. Arango is the global head of marketing & public relations at Azamara Club Cruises, headquartered in Miami.

“I’m honored to be named the 2019 Man of the Year and grateful to everyone who contributed to my campaign,” Ward said.

“If it had not been for their support, I would not have had this opportunity to give back to an organization that is very close to my heart. I lost my sister and father to blood cancer and I am committed to this cause as scientists study ways to harness the body’s own immune system to fight cancer and other alternative cures.”

A record-breaking $1.4 million was collected through the 2019 campaign. Organizers said South Florida has some of the most generous donors “who have made it their goal in life to help find a cure to this devastating condition affecting children and adults.”

“Every three minutes someone in the United States is diagnosed with a blood cancer and more than a third of blood cancer patients do not survive five years after their diagnosis,” said Eric Balaguer, executive board member with LLS. “We rely on campaigns and avid supporters like Mr. Ward to help further LLS’s mission.”

That mission: “Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families.”

Started by just two people who wanted to make a difference, the organization is now 70 years active. And the LLS investment of nearly $1.3 billion has led to “breakthroughs in immunotherapy, genomics and personalized medicine that are improving and saving the lives of patients.”

To get help as a patient or caregiver, donate, and volunteer in your community, visit

A boost for shelter dogs and cats

The Humane Society of Greater Miami will be able to help more sick and injured dogs and cats admitted to the shelter with a big donation from The Salah Foundation.

The donation goes directly to the “Second Chance Fund” and will be used for treatment above and beyond the standard preventive vaccines and medical care every animal receives in the shelter. Many times these treatments are life saving.

“We are very grateful to The Salah Foundation for this generous contribution to our Second Chance Fund,” said Laurie Hoffman, executive director at the Humane Society of Greater Miami.

“We have limited medical capabilities at our own clinics and frequently have to send our pets to local animal hospitals for further treatment; some of these pets are even in critical condition. It is thanks to The Salah Foundation and other community members who donate to our Second Chance Fund that we are able to give them the help they desperately need.”

The fund helps animals that need treatments for heartworm and skin issues, X-rays, minor surgeries, and even major surgeries.

If you can be a hero to the abandoned dogs and cats at the Soffer and Fine Adoption Center, call 305-749-1816, email or visit

If you have news for this column, send it to CHRISTINAMMAYO@GMAIL.COM.