Hope Floats: Denise Rich’s Charitable Causes

The G&P Foundation for Cancer Research was founded in 1998 and renamed the Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation for Cancer Research in 2008. Its mission is to fund research that focuses on prevention, treatment, and quality of life issues of leukemia, lymphoma, and related cancers.

“When my daughter was alive, she was a finalist to be the face of Lancôme,” she says. “They sent me her audition tape, which she had said, ‘I don’t believe we die. I believe that life just goes on.’ That gave me so much strength. I wanted to honor that message and memory, because if you believe that, then you believe in hope and that it’s not all for nothing.”

Cancer research, however, doesn’t come cheap; so Rich tapped her best resources—friends, colleagues, and her own innate penchant for throwing debonair revelries—and the Angel Ball was born. At one time a bi-annual event, the yearly ball is recognized as one of New York City’s top charity events. “All of my music friends come and perform so that we won’t incur costs to the charity. That’s how we’ve managed to give 82 percent of proceeds directly to fund research,” or $13 million worth of research.

Of course, hundreds of cancer research foundations exist, and all have a similar sincere and passionate sense of urgency to fight cancer, but Rich’s organization funds the future. “We fund junior researchers, more than 41 of them now, and give them $225,000 a year for three years to complete their projects.” Her desire is that these young people, who she refers to as our future leaders, will continue their work with funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

While the gala, which acts as the main fundraising event for the foundation, honors Gabrielle’s memory and Rich’s own hope for life without cancer, it also highlights a special group of hand-selected honorees who are tackling the same monster, but in different ways. This year, The Edge from megaband U2 and his wife, choreographer and dancer Morleigh Steinberg, stand under that spotlight for their own cancer efforts through The Angiogenesis Foundation, which funds angiogenesis-based medicines that could potentially treat or cure diseases triggered by a lack or excess amount of capillary blood vessels. The couple’s own daughter battled cancer. “The truth is that there is nearly no one in the room that evening that hasn’t been touched by cancer,” Rich says.

The other deserving honorees are Sean Parker, who has been at the helm of such forward-thinking entities as Napster and Facebook and acts as managing partner of the Founders Fund, and Bernd Beetz, the CEO of global beauty leader COTY Inc. Both men have joined forces with the world’s largest bone marrow bank, DKMS, which Rich supports on a personal level.