Annual holiday luncheon brings community together to support Dana-Farber
Inspired by the Walpole Friends of St. Patrick, the Friends of St. Nick of Norwood, Mass., was created to bring the local community together during the holidays to fundraise for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund. The organization has grown and thrived since it was established in 1992 and has raised over $500,000 for Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Jimmy Fund to date thanks to the outpouring of support from the Norwood community.
“We’re a group of local people who simply come together to give back each year,” shares Friends of St. Nick president Bill Gurley, when explaining the group’s mission. The organization’s annual luncheon honors a community member who has made an impact through their Person of the Year Award. The 2022 recipient was Matt Brown, a Norwood resident and spinal injury survivor who strives to “dispel stigmas about life in a wheelchair and inspire young people about how to deal with setbacks and adversity.” Attendees at the luncheon can also participate in silent auctions and opportunity drawings, which benefit Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. The overarching goal of the Friends of St. Nick? Ring in the holiday season with good friends and good cheer—for a good cause.
“Unfortunately, everyone has been somehow affected by cancer, whether it’s the person themselves or their friends or loved ones,” Bill shares. The widespread impact of cancer and the desire to support Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund’s mission to find cures inspired the organization’s formation 30 years ago and continues to serve as the foundation for the yearly luncheon. The Friends of St. Nick has raised over half a million dollars cumulatively, by selling luncheon tickets and collecting cash donations from individuals and local businesses who are connected to the Norwood community. The organization has spanned generations, with many of the original participants and board members passing along the tradition to their children and grandchildren. Mike Curran, son of Chris “Kibby” Curran, namesake of the Friends of St. Nick Kibby Good Guy Award, currently sits on the board of directors. Kibby was one of the founders of the Friends of St. Nick and was instrumental in laying the foundation for the event. He was on the board of directors until he passed away in 2009, and the yearly award in his name honors him and a member of the Friends of St. Nick community who best exemplifies Kibby’s good nature, big heart, and willingness to lend a helping hand.
Bill shares that the Norwood community is very tight-knit, and the luncheon’s consistent success stems from Norwood residents’ commitment to each other and to the mission of Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. “Fundraisers happen in town all the time,” Bill explains. “The people in our community approach fundraisers as social events that bring people together. The community really resembles ‘It’s a Wonderful Life.'” The organization also has continual support from Norwood’s local businesses who donate their time and goods to help make the luncheon an enjoyable event for all. Bill says the organization’s reputation speaks for itself and Norwood residents are eager to participate in community-wide events. The luncheon has become a beloved tradition, with nearly three quarters of the tables at the event occupied by annual attendees and the remainder consistently selling out. It has come to represent the values and dedication of Norwood as a whole.
When asked what advice he would share with fellow fundraisers for Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund, Bill says: “Chip away at it. Don’t think any act or donation is too small. You never know, you can start with a little snowball of an idea, and it can become something greater in a few years. Just start with something manageable and see where it goes.” He also advises aspiring fundraisers to work with people they like to make the work enjoyable. The meetings with the Board of Directors at the Friends of St. Nick, he says, do not feel like work at all because he enjoys spending time with these people and knows that they are working together to make a difference. He looks forward to meetings and the event every year, as they are collaborative efforts. “Although I’m president,” he shares, “I can’t take credit for doing all the work, organizing the event is definitely a board effort, and the success of the event is made possible by our community.”
If you are interested in hosting your own virtual or in-person event for the Jimmy Fund, fill out our online inquiry form or contact our community events team at JimmyFundEvents@dfci.harvard.edu.
Support Dana-Farber patients and families by joining The Dana-Farber Campaign, our ambitious, multi-year fundraising effort to prevent, treat, and defy cancer. The Dana-Farber Campaign will accelerate the Institute’s strategic priorities by supporting revolutionary science, extraordinary care, and exceptional expertise. As a community, we have the power to create a more hopeful, cancer-free future—in Boston and around the world. Together, we can defy cancer at every turn. Learn more about The Dana-Farber Campaign and how you can get involved at DefyCancer.org.