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On Sunday morning the Awbury Arboretum in Germantown opened its doors to scurrying children in search of hidden treasures, a raffle full of attractive prizes and a lively picnic abundant with coffee and bagels.

The event, Awbury Morning, was one of eight cancer fundraisers taking place simultaneously in different cities around the globe. This particular one taking place under the summer Philadelphian sun was organized by Penn’s Department of Psychology Associate Director of Undergraduate Studies Caroline Connolly.

The event was organized in memory of cancer victim Judith Gillanders, a close friend of Professor Connolly. On the same day, some of Gillanders’ other friends held fundraisers in locations such as Dublin, Long Island and Vermont.

Gillanders was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer called liposarcoma in February. She passed away in May and is survived by her husband Ross, and two young children, George and Ciara.

“For Judith there unfortunately wasn’t hope, but for a lot of people there is hope,” said Connolly. “I was really motivated by her husband saying if we wanted to help organize an event ... It’s really one of these unfortunate illnesses that can affect anybody and have huge sweeping ramifications in someone’s life and in the life of the people around you.”

The goal of the fundraiser was to raise $3,000 for Penn’s Abramson Cancer Center. The Center is one of 40 Comprehensive Cancer Centers designated by the National Cancer Institute. Its comprehensive approach makes it not only one of the leading global institutions in cancer research, but also a cornerstone of cancer education and care in the United States.

At the closing of this event, the ongoing fundraiser was $124 shy of its $3,000 mark.

The event was attended by a crowd of approximately 40 people, mainly composed of young couples with their children. It included a walk through the Arboretum, followed by a picnic with the Schmear It food-truck. Afterwards, a scavenger hunt for kids and a raffle were held.

The event was made a reality due greatly to the generosity of different Philadelphia local businesses.

“From Schmear-It food truck coming, to Trader Joe’s donating water and bananas for participants, to Mama Chia providing snacks ... this was made a really fun event from the numerous great Philly businesses and groups,” said Connolly, who has been a lecturer at Penn since 2011.

The fundraiser was both a morning in celebration of Gillander’s life and a show of support for the fight against cancer.

And for the Abramson Cancer Center, every bit of support counts.

“These types of events and the folks that run them, our philanthropic partners, are our most powerful partners. Professor Conolly’s efforts and the support of the Penn family is key to Penn being at the forefront of curing cancer,” the Center’s Principal Gifts Officer Tricia Bruning said.

Fundraising events like Awbury Morning are of great value for the Abramson Cancer Center because of the flexible nature of private philanthropic funds. Bruning explained how the use of grant money received from large foundations and government is restricted to very specific research projects specified by the donors. On the other hand, the Center has more leeway in deciding how to allocate private donations for the better.

“When we get philanthropic dollars it gives us the flexibility to direct them to new exciting ideas to help develop pilot data to then lead to larger grants from the federal government. So, if you will, they give us the seed money from which to grow a garden of cancer hope and cherish,” Bruning said.

In fact, funding received from private donations seems to be playing an increasing role at the Center. For fiscal year 2014 the Center received over $35 million from private philanthropy, an increase of about $7 million from the previous year.

“We’re really at the forefront not only in delivering care locally, but also in shaping the global perspective on cancer research ... And it’s really because of the seed funding we get from events like these that we’re making an impact in patients in the region, but also changing the way cancer is treated globally,” Bruning said.

Those interested in helping the center reach its $3,000 goal can visit

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