The story of Michael Thomas’ gift to City of Hope starts more than 100 years ago, when his great-grandfather purchased 80 acres of farmland. His great-grandparents gave 20 acres to his grandparents to help fund his father’s education.
Today, Thomas grows organic blueberries and walnuts on 120 acres, some of which includes land from the original farm. “It’s hard work,” he says, “but I love it. It’s a beautiful place.”
While the farm has been passed down through four generations, Thomas did not have a son to carry on this tradition. Instead, by gifting some parcels of his farm to fund charitable remainder trusts that benefit City of Hope, Thomas will receive significant tax benefits and create a legacy of hope and healing that honors his family and his own hard work, while creating lifetime income for himself and his family members.
Cancer has touched many in Thomas’ family, including his grandfather, father, sister, brother-in-law and a nephew. When considering how he might best direct his giving, he thought of City of Hope: “It’s simple — they are the best. They have cutting-edge research, but it’s combined with the kindness we’ve seen from everyone we’ve met and the concern they have for every patient.”
In entrusting his life’s work and legacy to City of Hope, Thomas needed to have confidence in City of Hope’s ability to see his vision through. Thomas found that working with Michael Rorman, one of City of Hope’s experts on planned giving and real estate gifts, gained his confidence.
“The details involved in making a gift like this can be complicated, but Michael Rorman made it easy — smooth as glass. He was a real expert. He thought of every detail.”
And his confidence in City of Hope only grew when he visited the main campus in Duarte, California, for the first time.
Thomas and his wife, Susan Smith, met some of City of Hope’s dedicated staff, including Saul Priceman, Ph.D., associate professor, Department of Hematology & Hematopoietic Cell Transplantation, who has an overarching goal to develop immunotherapies for solid cancers.
They were particularly moved by meeting pediatric oncology nurse, Hannah Komai, B.S.N., R.N., who had been treated for bone cancer on the very ward where she now works, as well as two of the nurses who had once cared for her.
They also had the opportunity to meet a longtime employee and volunteer, Jeannie Lawrence, and were struck by the length of her relationship with City of Hope. Thomas recalls, “She worked at City of Hope for 41 years and retired twice! And now is a volunteer at the Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center. It says something special about an organization when staff want to stay involved for so long.”
Thomas adds, “It was really heartwarming to see the care and the compassion that is demonstrated by all staff for the patients and to see the close relationships between people who work at City of Hope.”
Their campus visit also included a tour of the Helford Clinical Research Hospital, Beckman Research Institute, Geri & Richard Brawerman Ambulatory Care Center, the Rose Garden and City of Hope’s beautiful Japanese garden.
“Everything about City of Hope, from the ground to the buildings to everyone we’ve met, and the care they show to everyone — it’s perfect.”
Their visit confirmed Thomas’ gift decision: “Sometimes a succession plan doesn’t work out as we would hope. It was a hard decision, but I feel great about it, knowing that my life’s work is going to be reflected in something so important and meaningful and good for the world.”