Special Recognition Given to Laguna Woods Resident for Donation Towards Cancer Institute and Services

To support the MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Saddleback Medical Center and honor those affected by cancer, community leaders, physicians, donors and guests came together for Saddleback Medical Center Foundation’s Spring Gala – A Celebration of Hope on Saturday, May 3. The sold-out gala, attended by nearly 500 people, raised $230,000 to benefit the new home of the Cancer Institute.

Saddleback Medical Center Medical Center Chief Executive Officer Steve Geidt gave special thanks to Gary Damsker, a Laguna Woods resident and longtime supporter of the hospital. (Damsker passed away in 2019.) The “Damsker Family Pavilion” at the MemorialCare Cancer Institute will be named in recognition of the family’s ongoing generosity.

“Cancer has no boundaries – it’s important that we honor all the mothers, husbands, neighbors and even physicians who have been touched by this chronic disease,” said Geidt. “We also recognize the friends and family members who were there for their loved ones along their journey. We are grateful for the support we receive from the community, which allows Saddleback Medical Center to provide patients and families with a cancer center right in their backyard, delivering advanced treatment and expertise in a convenient, healing environment.”

The MemorialCare Cancer Institute at Saddleback Medical Center, adjacent to the hospital, provides the community with access to technologically advanced equipment and expanded treatment options. The Meiklejohn Radiation Oncology Center will move from its current location to the new Cancer Institute and will offer the latest radiation oncology treatments and state-of-the-art technologies with pinpoint accuracy with the addition of a TrueBeamTM linear accelerator.

The Cancer Institute will also house a new Positron Emission Tomography-Computed Tomography (PET/CT) scanner used to help physicians see what stage a person’s cancer is at and what treatment options are available. In addition, patients will have access to genetic counseling services and the new outdoor “Garden of Hope,” designed and landscaped by Roger’s Gardens.

“Although we have a new home for the MemorialCare Cancer Institute, Saddleback Medical Center has been providing outstanding cancer care for 40 years,” notes Geidt. “It’s the generous supporters that have given us the opportunity to continue our commitment to cancer care and focus on the health and well-being of the community for many more years to come.”

During the evening, a live auction featuring items such as “Surgeon for a Day,” a diamond pendant necklace, and homemade pies by CEO Steve Geidt, garnered approximately $40,000 for the Cancer Institute.

During the “Gifts from the Heart” portion of the evening, Saddleback Medical Center chaplain Anette Rihovsky shared her personal experiences in dealing with her aunt’s and husband’s cancer. She also spoke about her encounters with hospital patients and the importance of a natural healing environment and the positive impact the Garden of Hope can make on patients.

When asked to contribute to the Garden of Hope, guests graciously donated approximately $60,000 towards the new garden that will provide a respite from the stress of cancer for patients and their families.

“We are truly thankful to be surrounded by such a philanthropic community,” said Cecilia Belew, president of Saddleback Medical Center Foundation. “This event was not just about raising funds but also centered on acknowledging all the supporters who continue to give and touch the lives of many. We could not be happier to celebrate the new cancer center and honor all those that have made this possible.”

Spring Gala 2014 Platinum, Gold and Silver sponsors included:

  • Platinum Sponsors: Saddleback Medical Center, Saddleback Medical Center Medical Staff, Surgical Care Affiliates
  • Gold Sponsors: Doris J. Poore, Saddleback Radiation Oncology Medical Group, South Orange County Surgical Medical Group, UnitedHealthcare
  • Silver Sponsors: Affiliated Pathologists Medical Group, CEP America (2 tables), Gary Damsker, Greater Newport Physicians/MemorialCare Medical Group, Monarch Healthcare, Pediatrix and Obstetrix Medical Groups, Inc., Progressive Management Systems, Dr. Richard Reitherman and Associates, Arnold C. Schwartz, South County Orthopedic Specialists, Tiller Constructors