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At the time of the opening, Lauren told WWD, "This did not come out of philanthropy. This did not come out of a master plan. This did not come out of publicity. This did not come out of a fashion show. This came out of knowing someone who died. I couldn't save her, but I am committed now, and that commitment has gone on for 15 years. This is not the end. This is the beginning of a long fight for all of us."
Since the opening, the center, which launched as a partnership between Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and North General Hospital, has grown significantly, and is scheduled to add a colonoscopy suite this December. Freeman also recently received a $2.5 million leadership grant from the Amgen Foundation to create the Harold P. Freeman Patient Navigation Training Institute. It will be a part of Lauren's center, and aims to teach the patient navigation idea for cancer centers elsewhere.
"We are also about to embark on a feasibility study to determine the efficacy of replicating the Ralph Lauren Cancer Center in other parts of the country," Cohen said. "We have not made a commitment to do that, but want to make a study to determine whether it is prudent to do it. That's how good we feel about the center."
Lauren's efforts to help the fight against cancer have been a key mission for almost two decades, and Polo's vice president of corporate affairs and philanthropy Bette-Ann Gwathmey is closely involved in these initiatives. His motivation to help in the area was triggered in the late-Eighties when the designer's friend, Washington Post fashion editor Nina Hyde, was diagnosed with breast cancer. In 1989, Lauren and Washington Post chair Katherine Graham cofounded the Nina Hyde Center for Breast Cancer Research at Georgetown University in Washington. Hyde's fate — she died a year later at the age of 57 — also inspired his motivation to take a leadership position with the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Fashion Targets Breast Cancer initiative, which launched in 1994 and has since raised millions of dollars for breast cancer charities.
In 2000, Lauren launched the Pink Pony Campaign, a vehicle for raising money for cancer care and prevention in medically underserved communities. With sales of special Pink Pony products, he has so far been able to raise about $4 million to benefit numerous institutions, including his Cancer Center, the Nina Hyde Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and North General Hospital, the American Hospital in Paris, Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.