Final Word from Rick Toppin

Takeaways from a Spirit of Life Honouree.


OPI asked me an interesting question during a recent conversation: “What’s it like being a Spirit of Life Honouree for City of Hope?” I’m sure all past honourees would have a slightly different spin on the experience they’ve had, but here are some of the things that I’ve learned from this year’s Generations for Hope campaign.

Fiction and fact

Perception 1: It must be great to be the Spirit of Life Honouree and get to play golf every week.

Reality: I wish! Unfortunately, my day job gets in the way of attending all but a handful of events. But the City of Hope team are true professionals and work very closely with every sponsor to ensure a successful event.

Perception 2: Aren’t these City of Hope campaigns primarily about golf?

Reality: Absolutely not. Our fundraising campaigns have broadened significantly in recent years to provide greater appeal to non-golfers. We have walking, hiking, running, skiing and biking events, as well as curling, fishing and charity softball initiatives.  We’re even going to have a Harley motorcycle event this year. 

The bottom line is: no matter what your interests, there is an event and an opportunity to get involved in the campaign. Everyone can make a difference and help us fight these life-threatening diseases!

Perception 3: I work in the industry, but my company is not one of the Fortune 500 companies with deep pockets. Is there really a role for my small business or for me as an individual?

Reality: Most definitely yes. One of the newer ways for small businesses to become involved in the campaign is our Cross-Country Cookout. Many small businesses host an annual summer picnic or BBQ for their employees. If you contact Andy Ishii at, City of Hope will provide you with a complete kit and containers for employees to make a free will donation in return for the cookout. We raised over $50,000 in our first year of sponsoring these cookouts. Just as importantly, it was a fun event for these businesses and their staff. 

From an individual perspective, I would encourage you to go to the Families for Hope website. This is a site designed for you to make a personal donation in support of a loved one who may be currently battling cancer or diabetes, or in memory of someone who may have lost their battle to these diseases. No donation is too small and there is a match to every dollar that you give.

Enjoy the experience

Jamie Fellowes — a previous honouree — sent me a nice note a few months ago encouraging me to make sure to have some fun and enjoy the campaign. I absolutely have. If you’re following our industry here in the US, you will be well aware of the structural events and degree of change underway. In hindsight, this may not have been my preferred year to be the honouree! 

That said, I’ve found that working on the City of Hope campaign helps keep me grounded to what is most important — my family, my friends and the people that I work with. Cancer and diabetes are striking far too many of these people in my life and the dollars that we raise through our campaign provides new hope to these individuals.

But maybe the greatest blessing of being an honouree has been that it’s provided me with a unique view into the “best” of our industry. Nearly every day, someone or some company does something truly remarkable and without any expectation of getting something in return. An independent dealer recently handed me a cheque for $20,000 solely because he wanted to help City of Hope. A small supplier pledged $1,000 simply because he was moved by our Generations for Hope theme of fighting these diseases for our kids and grandkids. Individuals who I don’t even know have contributed to the Families for Hope site. These are just a few of the many amazing stories of hope from our campaign.

Every Spirit of Life Honouree will tell you that the campaign is not about the honouree. It’s about the many thousands of wonderful people working in our industry who come together for one purpose — to help City of Hope find a cure to these life-threatening diseases. I have been truly humbled by all the support that this year’s campaign has generated. My sincere “thank you” and let’s all keep working together until we have a cure.