The Jellison Family
How a thank-you note led to an extraordinary $25 million gift in support of the Sarasota Memorial Cancer Institute.
When Sheila Jellison penned her heartfelt thank-you note to oncologist Dr. Richard Brown, her intention was to gratefully acknowledge the quality of care her husband, Brian received. She wrote “…Most of all, you gave us hope. When dealing with cancer, hope is the most important element.”
At the time, Sheila had no idea that the hospital’s vision for bringing comprehensive cancer care to Sarasota was already in its first stages of development. What she did know was that the cancer journey can be tough and no one should go through it alone, or have to leave home to get the best cancer treatment.
The Jellison Journey
Brian Jellison had a 50-year career in business and was the former CEO and chairman of Lakewood Ranch-based Roper Technologies. His list of career accolades is long, including being named one of the best performing CEOs in the world by Harvard Business Review.
Brian was a devoted family man. He and Sheila were married for 52 years and raised three daughters, Christie Jellison Mucha, Michelle Jellison and Hilary Jellison Simonds. Between them, there are eight grandchildren. With Brian’s career, the family moved often over the years, but remained close. “We are a family that is always there for each other above everything else,” says Hilary. That closeness was what helped them get through some of the toughest moments in Brian’s cancer journey.
The Jellisons experienced firsthand how difficult a cancer diagnosis and treatment can be on a family. Brian lost his battle with cancer in November 2018. Christie recalled how difficult it was to see her dad as a patient, her mom as caregiver, and the strain it put on the whole family. The daughters often discussed how they were to be able to come down to Sarasota and stay at the family home while Brian was in treatment. “It mattered to be at home,” Christie said.
Creating Their Gift Of Hope
In the fall of 2018, as one cancer journey was coming to an end, another journey, one of hope, began. The Brian and Sheila Jellison Family Foundation was created shortly before his passing. The foundation was a way to honor Brian and all he had accomplished in his life, by “doing good” for others. It was also a way to keep the family connected for generations to come.
Sheila is the foundation’s president while each daughter serves as a director. The foundation’s mission: to help people facing the challenges of cancer, promote financial literacy and higher education, and support local communities that have special meaning to the family. The Cancer Institute was a perfect fit.
When Sheila sat down to meet with SMH and Healthcare Foundation leadership to learn more about the Cancer Institute, she was moved to tears by the Healthcare Foundation’s “Hope Comes Home” video. “No one should have to leave home for treatment,” she said. “It’s too hard.” After consulting with her daughters, the gift, and history were made.
The Jellison Family Foundation gift will help fulfill two critical needs for local patients and families beyond the scope of advanced cancer treatment and state-of-the-art facilities. It is helping to create a centralized place that will assist with the many difficult decisions that come with a cancer diagnosis. There are also patient navigators to help with myriad appointments, emotional support, education and so much more. Sheila’s wish is for the patients and families at the Cancer Institute to feel like “somebody’s putting their arm around them.”
Hope Lives Here Now
Through their gift, the Jellisons are experiencing joy as well as hope. While they haven’t visited the newly completed Radiation Oncology Center the family is looking forward to seeing the renderings come to life. Michelle noted that, “You don’t need a fancy building to do medicine well, yet there’s something beautiful about the Radiation Oncology Center. It’s light and airy with natural murals. It’s a place where you can breathe. A comfort care place.” Sheila’s thank-you note words are engraved on the Center’s living wall.
In recognition of their $25 million gift, all future buildings, programs and services will bear the name Brian D. Jellison Cancer Institute. What a way to honor the man whose family has just given the gift of hope to all of ours.
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