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Nicole and Billy Cundiff

Billy and Nicole Cundiff with daughter Chloe

FEATURES

Living to Give

By Riki Altman-Yee and David M. Brown

Photography by Chris Loomis, Phyllis Lane and Carl Schultz

10.25.17

From eradicating life-threatening diseases and spreading smiles to improving the arts and ushering in a new generation of givers, these champions of charity are raising the bar on generosity in the Valley.

Seeking a Cure
Nicole and Billy Cundiff set their sights on eradicating ovarian cancer once and for all.

Nicole and Billy Cundiff know ovarian cancer is not a hot topic of conversation. It certainly was not top of mind Sept. 16, 2007, when the couple eagerly awaited Billy’s next NFL kicker contract. But when Nicole’s mom, Colleen Drury, was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer that day, everything changed. The couple learned that particular disease is the fifth-leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women in America, and less than half of those diagnosed at advanced stages live more than five years. The Cundiffs returned to Arizona and started a nonprofit with Nicole’s three sisters and her parents. “We had enough knowledge to be dangerous,” Billy says. “And we were crazy enough to think it would work,” Nicole adds. Colleen’s Dream Foundation was born, destined to generate awareness and fund research that would hopefully lead to reliable early detection tests and improved, more humane treatment for women with late-stage ovarian cancer. Many local businesses help the foundation raise money, and even the Cundiffs’ 9-year-old daughter, Chloe, has earned more than $7,000 selling lemonade on weekends, but its largest fundraiser has been the annual Colleen’s Dream Golf Tournament (Feb. 23, 10:30am, Biltmore Golf Club, Adobe Course, 2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix) and Evening of Dreams Gala (Feb. 24, 5:30pm, JW Marriott Camelback Inn, 5402 E. Lincoln Drive, Scottsdale), which has helped the foundation grant more than $650,000 to researchers throughout the country. This year, some of the proceeds raised supported Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) in Phoenix, which, Nicole says, is close to initiating a clinical trial of a new targeted treatment option. Billy, who jokingly admits he knows “entirely too much about female reproductive health,” says he is determined to enlighten everyone about ovarian cancer, starting with the basics: “Everybody has a mom.”  

Charles Keller

Charles Keller

Capeless Crusader
Charles Keller channels his inner Bruce Wayne to help kids.

It all started when former finance guy Charles Keller got the idea to purchase an actual Batmobile. Eventually, word got out—and soon, requests for appearances started flooding in. But, as Keller explains, “The calls that really got my attention were the ones where someone was saying, ‘We’ve got a sick kid.’” One day, Keller drove his Batmobile to visit a 3-year-old, Colten, who was losing his battle with cancer. “I cannot overstate how deeply seeing Colten’s state affected me,” Keller recalls. Colten and his dad zipped around the block, and when they returned, the boy was elated. Keller instantly realized his car had superpowers and became determined to help more families. Over time, he collected enough memorabilia to create an entirely outfitted “crime-fighting cave” in South Phoenix for gravely ill little ones, children of fallen officers and kids of wounded soldiers to enjoy. For the past eight years, he and volunteers, including officers from Phoenix Police Department, have hosted 269 families at no charge and have donated close to $1 million to 157 charities. Demand has grown—along with Keller’s collection—so he and architect Mark Candelaria started drafting plans for a 35,000-square-foot Monument to Compassion, a chateau akin to Stately Wayne Manor where children facing hardship can fulfill their superhero dreams and develop a passion for altruism. Today Colten Cowell Foundation still needs substantial funding before ground is broken for the new mansion, but Keller shows no signs of stopping. “I have a great responsibility to make this city a better place,” he says. Spoken like a true superhero.

Spreading Kindness
Justin and Jaime Clarke want to make good deeds go viral.

The late Scott Clarke probably suspected his random acts of kindness would have a ripple effect, but he never could have predicted the tsunami of good deeds his twin brother, Justin, and his sister-in-law, Jaime, would start after his passing. As the story goes, for years, nearly every mom who visited a certain Starbucks on Mother’s Day was gifted a rose and her beverage of choice. On Mother’s Day 2011, Scott and Justin’s mom asked the cashier whom the anonymous benefactor was, only to learn it had been her son Scott all along. When Justin shared the story during Scott’s eulogy just one month later, it inspired a group of Scott’s friends to pay it forward on Father’s Day. “That was the lightbulb moment for Jaime and me, that by sharing stories of kindness, you can inspire more,” Justin says. In 2012, the Clarkes created The Honey Foundation in Goodyear with a singular goal: to inspire, recognize and reward others who perform acts of kindness. They started hosting fundraisers, like Flavors of the West culinary festival (March 24, noon, Downtown Litchfield Park, 100 S. Old Litchfield Road) and Water Walk 5K (May 5, 9am, Starpointe Residents Club, Estrella Mountain Ranch, 17665 W. Elliot Road, Goodyear), raising thousands of dollars and giving it all away. Soon, a local school asked the Clarkes how they could teach students to leverage kindness. Jaime, who has a background in psychology, created and shared a curriculum, and now that school and others on the program report an average 51 percent decrease in disciplinary action. Just this year, The Honey Foundation took its message beyond state lines, offering its curriculum to schools in New York, New Jersey, California and Nebraska. What a sweet way to spread the notion.  

Dr. Chuck Goldstein Laurie Goldstein

Dr. Chuck and Laurie Goldstein

Lights, Camera, Action
A Paradise Valley philanthropic couple takes center stage.

Laurie and Dr. Chuck Goldstein have helped create the score for even greater performances at ASU Gammage for the next 50 years and beyond. The arts champions received the 2017 Jerry Award for their contributions to the organization. Both served on the theater’s 50th anniversary leadership board as heads of the recently completed Elevate and Alleviate and Golden Gammage Initiative. The campaigns afforded much-needed improvements to the facilities—including a new sound system—all of which needed to be sensitively integrated into the original Frank Lloyd Wright architecture. Posthumously honored in 2015 with the first namesake award, Jerry Appell was one of the most ardent supporters of the theater. “This award is especially significant for us because Jerry and I were friends, New York boys and strong supporters of the same things,” says Chuck, a Queens native who interned in the Valley at Good Samaritan Hospital before becoming an emergency room specialist. He is now retired. “Laurie and Chuck Goldstein epitomize the gold standard for philanthropists,” says Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, the executive director of ASU Gammage and ASU vice president for cultural affairs. “They are brilliant and truly live deep in their own curiosities, consistently exploring new horizons. They are doers and committed to rolling up their sleeves and helping in the effort.” The next initiative? ASU hopes to raise $1.5 billion in the next three years to help bolster their number of college graduates. An estimated two out of three jobs in Arizona will require education beyond high school by 2020. To donate, go to giveto.asu.edu.

Giving 2.0
Social media guru Carey Pena is all heart.

Carey Peña might spend a great deal of time interviewing guests—whom she says “inspire communities with the power of optimism”—for her podcasts and talk shows on Inspired Media 360. But locals also know her as a giving luminary in her own right. The Emmy-winning former Channel 3 (KTVK) anchor is involved with numerous local organizations, including K2 Adventures Foundation, Central Arizona Shelter Services, Dress for Success Phoenix, Child Crisis Arizona, Childhelp Wings, Global Family Philanthropy, Families Giving Back, New Pathways for Youth and others that support veterans, women, children and animals. Plus she emcees events regularly and volunteers on behalf of a variety of cancer causes—but helping the Phoenix Heart Ball (Nov. 18, 6:30pm, tickets from $750 and American Heart Association are top priorities. “Currently, I chair the Phoenix Heart Ball media and PR committee, and am also serving on a national think tank for the American Heart Association,” she explains. “Specifically, this year, the focus has been funding hands-only CPR in Arizona schools.” Between having a retired heart surgeon in the family (her grandfather) and spending years extensively reporting on topics including sudden heart attacks, heart disease, obesity and strokes, working on behalf of AHA was an easy decision. All in all, Peña is setting quite the example for her 7-year-old twins and two stepdaughters. “It’s important to me that my children have servants’ hearts,” she explains. “It is never too early to learn what it means to take care of one another.”