A Lasting Influence

Rona and Leon Cole’s history with City of Hope reaches back for generations. Leon’s mother and uncles were deeply involved supporters in the 1950s, and both the Coles and other members of their families have personal experience with cancer. But their involvement today has also had its roots in a very special relationship.

About 19 years ago, Rona and Leon moved to San Diego North County and were invited to a City of Hope chapter gathering. The purpose of that event was to introduce City of Hope to new members of the community. The speaker was Robyn Hima, a passionate fundraiser for City of Hope and liaison to the chapter.

“Robyn became a good friend. She was always there for me as I got to know other members of the community and was instrumental in supporting my involvement,” Rona remembers. “When Robyn passed away from cancer several years ago, I was devastated.” A testament to Robyn’s character is how she continues to be a motivating force for the chapter’s work.

Rona’s participation in the chapter started out by overhauling the chapter’s communications and soon found herself elected vice president, a role she continues in today. Another pivotal shift occurred when Rona asked Regina Aulisio if she would be president. The chapter had several presidents over the years, but Regina was the catalyst that made their chapter focus on increasing their fundraising potential. One of the first steps Regina took as president was asking Rona to be the fundraising chair.

With Regina and Rona’s leadership, the chapter has become a fundraising powerhouse, raising more than $112,000 last year alone. “We held very successful galas and events until the pandemic made that impossible — but found that with a little creativity, we could be just as successful without them. We’ve found ways to keep expenses low or even non-existent so that all funds raised can be donated, and we’re very proud of that. I think our success also speaks to how dedicated City of Hope supporters are.” They are also proud that Robyn, whose influence remains strong, will be recognized on the chapter’s plaque at City of Hope’s new cancer center in Orange County.

In addition to all they have done and continue to do for City of Hope, Rona and Leon have included a gift to City of Hope in their estate plans — and want to encourage others to do the same.

“It’s critical that City of Hope have the support they need to continue their research and to provide their extraordinary standard of care,” emphasizes Rona. “We are fortunate that our family and children are doing well so we can offer our support in this way to City of Hope. And I want to encourage the other members of our chapter and all City of Hope supporters to learn more about giving through their estate plans.”

Rona believes that City of Hope is special because of its focus on the whole patient. “They bring an intense awareness and concern for the needs of each patient.” She also appreciates City of Hope’s generosity in sharing their medical breakthroughs to benefit patients beyond City of Hope: “Although I wasn’t treated for breast cancer at City of Hope, I know that I benefited from their work — they don’t hold back from sharing their research as widely as possible. City of Hope is unique — their humanity and their expertise, and they way they truly care about their patients — it’s worth supporting.”

To learn more about ways to support City of Hope through a gift in your will or living trust, or by naming City of Hope a beneficiary of your retirement plan or other financial account, please contact the Office of Planned Giving at 800-232-3314, plannedgiving@coh.org or visit myplanwithcoh.org.