Column: The Crowd: Celebrating cancer-free lives, Circle 1000 is growing

Comic Mack Dryden and Sandy Sewell, founder of Circle 1000, attend the annual brunch benefiting Hoag Family Cancer Institute at the Fashion Island Hotel in Newport Beach.
(Photo by Kevin Warn )

Over the past 32 years, a nonprofit known as Circle 1000 has been doing everything possible to make a difference in finding a cancer cure. Its association with the Hoag Family Cancer Institute has raised and donated in excess of $20 million in search of answers.

The organization’s annual Circle 1000 Founder’s Celebration Brunch recently unfolded at the Fashion Island Hotel, attracting more than 300 advocates and raising in excess of $1 million. Perhaps more significant than the impressive dollar amounts raised is the simple fact that the impact of Circle 1000 has united so many individuals in the community fighting cancer of all types.

This close-knit fraternity has provided not only access to outstanding medical treatment through the Hoag Family Cancer Institute but has also been a path to celebrating survival among the afflicted. Each year for the past 32 seasons, the emotional crescendo of the Circle 1000 Brunch has been the standing of cancer survivors all together in the ballroom surrounded by victorious applause.

Best of all, each year the number of people standing grows.


Mary Buckingham, chairwoman of the Circle 1000 event, which raised $1 million to fight cancer, addresses the Newport Beach crowd.
(Photo by Kevin Warn)

“Thanks to philanthropy, Hoag Family Cancer Institute is currently running 31 Phase One clinical trials with many more in development,” Mary Buckingham, chairwoman of the 2019 gathering, said. “The number of patients enrolled in these trials has doubled in the past year. Imagine the hope and gratitude patients and their families feel knowing they are benefitting from promising new treatment options.”

Founded in 1987 by breast cancer survivor Sandy Sewell, Circle 1000 began as a group of friends each contributing $1,000 and then going into the community asking additional friends to also contribute $1,000.

This grass-root effort has grown to include more than 1,000 friends and donors whose generosity is saving lives. The highlight of the annual Circle 1000 Brunch is provided by an outstanding speaker every year. Major names from the worlds of entertainment, business, politics and science have graced the podium, sharing very personal stories relating to cancer survival.


This year, cancer survivor and and standup comic Mack Dryden was in the spotlight. Fighting two kinds of cancer, Dryden revealed his journey with the appreciative audience. Sharing the moment when his physician told him that he was cancer-free, Dryden turned his attention to praising the Circle 1000 effort.

“I appreciate people like you and what Circle 1000 is doing to save people’s lives every single day,” he said. “Just remember that falling on your face is still moving forward!”

B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.

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