Daily Herald American Cancer Society
Partnering in the fight against cancer

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

"It's not simply something they do, it's a commitment that literally permeates the organization," says the American Cancer Society's Rita Forden, vice president of distinguished giving.

Forden applauds the cancer commitment of Deerfield-based Walgreens, among the first major Illinois' employers making a commitment to corporate partnering in the battle against cancer.

As the largest drug-store chain in the United States in terms of sales volume, Walgreens, says Forden, has a time-honored commitment to the American Cancer Society through its involvement in many volunteer events and customer engagement. That commitment, across all levels of the organization, resulted in receipt of the 2007 ACS Corporate IMPACT award honoring companies raising at least $1 million or more during the calendar year.

Motorola, United Airlines, Boeing Corp, Dominick's and Pampered Chef are among other major Illinois employers formalizing their commitment to partner in the fight against cancer.

Commitment permeates organization from top down

Jeffrey A. Rein,

Jeffrey A. Rein, Walgreens chairman and chief executive officer, recently was named chairperson of CEOs Against Cancer, a CEO leadership group partnering with the Illinois Division of the American Cancer Society.

In his new position, Rein will lead the group in its mission to prevent and reduce the devastating effects of cancer through education, health initiatives for employees and increased awareness about cancer in Illinois' business community.

"While we have made great progress through research, education, advances in screenings and treatments, cancer remains the No. 1 killer of working-age people in the United States," says Steven M. Derks, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society, Illinois Division. ‘It also remains the disease that is of most concern to Americans. And it is the costliest disease to employers when we consider medical care, absenteeism, and other ancillary costs."

Rein, a Lincolnshire resident who joined Walgreens in 1982 as an assistant store manager, is passionate about the fight against cancer and leveraging the employer platform to help millions of Illinois employees to prevent and detect cancers at their earliest stages, says John Gremer, Walgreen's director of Community Relations whose personal story of lifesaving early detection is testament to Rein's commitment.

"I was on a plane enroute from a conference meeting when I found myself seated next to Jeff Rein, then our president," recalls Gremer, now a 15-year Walgreens veteran. "We started talking, getting to know each other. Although I was only a 39-year-old manager at the time, he asked me if I'd ever considered having a colonoscopy and encouraged me to schedule one as soon as possible."

His recommendation was lifesaving, says Gremer, who scheduled the exam and was shocked to learn of two not-yet-cancerous polyps which were removed.

"My doctor told me that if I had waited until I was 50 for the initial screening evaluation, it would have been too late," Gremer states. "I wouldn't be here today."

Gremer says his experience isn't unique. As a pharmacy and health supply resource, Walgreens 235,000 employees across the nation and in Puerto Rico see growing numbers of cancer patients, many who are family members and friends. "Partnering with the American Cancer Society," he says, "is a concrete way we can give back and join in a fight against a disease which impacts so many." Each May for the past 13 years, Walgreens has featured a "Hope Blooms With You" campaign, offering its customers the opportunity to buy a paper bloom representing a $1 contribution to the American Cancer Society, says Bonnie Gordon, Walgreen's Promotional Marketing/Community Outreach manager. "Through this program," notes Gordon, a 15-year breast cancer survivor who was diagnosed at age 35 and whose treatment included a lumpectomy and an aggressive chemotherapy and radiation therapy regimen, "Our 6,200 Walgreens stores have raised over $14 million for the Society's breast cancer initiatives." Walgreens' commitment to the fight against cancer extends to their employees' involvement through a payroll deduction program and participation in the Relay For Life national corporate team. Thousands of Walgreens employees participate every year in several of the 4,800 local Relay For Life events held throughout the country and last year raised over $1.5 million for the American Cancer Society.

About CEOs Against Cancer

CEOs Against Cancer will hold its fifth annual meeting in Chicago Thursday, June 12. The organization was founded in 2003 by CEOs seeking to collaborate and make a difference in the cancer fight for their employees and their loved ones. Today, membership includes more than 70 chairmen and CEOs from many of the state's largest and most visible employers. For more information about CEOs Against Cancer, contact Rita Forden, vice president, American Cancer Society at (312) 960-2344.


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