The Spirit of Life: P/C Insurance Industry Helps Find a Cure for Cancer

December 15, 2014 by

The past year will be remembered as a special year for the City of Hope and its insurance industry supporters. The industry, which has been supporting the cancer treatment and research center for 36 years, broke all fundraising records in its annual dinner for the City of Hope this year – reaching $2.7 million in funding.

For more than 100 years, the City of Hope has led the way in medical breakthroughs for the treatment of tuberculosis, cancer, diabetes, HIV-AIDS and other life-threatening diseases. Today, City of Hope stands as one of only 41 comprehensive cancer centers in the nation as designated by the National Cancer Institute for its role as a leader in patient care and research.

Patients, doctors, researchers, fundraisers and volunteers are all united by a desire to save lives. “Every discovery we make and every new treatment we create gives people the chance to live longer, better and more fully,” the group says.

In 1978, a group of insurance industry executives set out to develop City of Hope’s National Insurance Industry Council (NIIC). Through the NIIC, the insurance industry joined more than 20 other industry groups supporting the City of Hope in its quest for cures.

In its 36-year history, the NIIC has raised more than $24 million. The Spirit of Life Award dinner is the center of the NIIC’s annual fundraising efforts.

This year’s annual Spirit of Life Award dinner broke records in campaign donations, according to Ken Birkett, director of development, City of Hope. “It was the best year in the history of the NIIC,” he said. The success was in large part due to this year’s honoree, Steve DeCarlo, CEO of AmWINS Group Inc.

The Spirit of Life Award dinner, held Sept. 12, 2014 in Atlanta – the night before the start of the National Association of Professional Surplus Lines Offices annual conference opened in Atlanta – garnered more than $2.7 million in funds. The 2013 event raised $2.1 million while the 2012 event raised $984,000.

Industry Support

The support of AmWINS – and DeCarlo – were instrumental in the success, Birkett said.

“It wasn’t just one guy or one company but it was an entire group coming together as a whole,” he said. “We were sold out a month and half before the dinner and that’s unheard of.”

DeCarlo credits the record raised at this year’s Spirit of Life Award dinner to the more than 3,000 employees at AmWINS and his partners in the insurance industry who rallied behind him to support the cause.

Today, in addition to its big dinner, NIIC organizes other fundraisers across the country including Hoops for Hope in five cities (Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, Des Moines and Philadelphia) and the Strike Out Cancer Bowling Events in Atlanta and Tampa, Fla.

Giving is part of the DNA of AmWINS and success is in the DNA of an insurance broker, according to DeCarlo.

“We are sales professionals and it’s in our DNA that when you do it, you do it well,” he

said. “We are not afraid to ask because we are brokers.”

The mission of City of Hope is also close to DeCarlo’s heart. He overcame throat cancer six years ago. “Every one of us has been touched by cancer in some way so it’s definitely a cause that everyone can get behind,” he said.

It helps that giving is rooted in AmWINS’ corporate culture as well. DeCarlo says that employees participate in many charitable fundraising efforts year-round – from $1 donations for blue jeans or flip-flops on Fridays (which the company matches) to golf tournaments, bowling and basketball events to community-oriented grassroots charity events – all of which are supported by top leaders.

DeCarlo, a 33-year-veteran of the insurance industry, has led AmWINS since 2000. Under DeCarlo’s leadership, AmWINS has grown to become one of the largest property/casualty insurance wholesalers in the United States since its formation in 1998. The firm has more than 100 locations across 18 countries, including 78 in the U.S.

“We are lucky enough to be in an industry that thrives through recessions and provides great jobs,” DeCarlo said. “And we are lucky enough to realize that we should give back in many different ways.”

The NIIC is comprised of representatives of prominent life, property/casualty companies, law firms, brokers, accounting firms, reinsurers, executive placement firms and actuaries in the insurance industry. With active Midwest, Dallas and Atlanta committees and council members from across the U.S., the NIIC spans the nation.