Skip to main content

Huntsmans donate to cancer center expansion

By Miriam Falco, CNN
November 2, 2013 -- Updated 0157 GMT (0957 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The Huntsman Cancer Center is getting a $100 million addition
  • The Huntsman family is putting up about half, says Jon Huntsman Sr.
  • The expansion will be used to research and treat childhood cancers

(CNN) -- Utah multimillionaire Jon Huntsman Sr. said Friday the Salt Lake City cancer center that bears his name will get a $100 million addition, half of which is coming from his family.

The 220,000-square-foot addition will be used to find cures for childhood cancers, and will double the Huntsman Cancer Institute's research space, said the 76-year-old businessman and philanthropist, father of former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr.

Patients who are treated at the cancer center are teamed up with cancer specialists as well as researchers who are trying to find better ways to treat and, hopefully, cure them.

The new laboratories will be used to further study genetic childhood cancers and cancers that affect families, including the three leading causes of disease death in children: leukemia, sarcoma and brain cancer.

"The only way to make progress on cancer is to keep delving deeper and deeper in the research technology." says Huntsman.

Cancer claims about 550,000 lives a year, something Americans have accepted as a way of life. But they would not accept losing 550,000 soldiers on the battlefield each year, he adds.

"The private sector should do more; the government should do more," says Huntsman.

Huntsman says he wants to die broke because "you can't spend money after you die."

His family "has put about $400 million into the cancer center, and we've raised about a billion dollars for cancer research (overall)," he says.

For the latest expansion, "the family is putting about half of it up," he says. He raised the rest of the funds from donors like The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Utah Legislature and other major hospital groups in the area also contributed.

Four-time cancer survivor gives back

Huntsman's riches grew out of a small plastics company he founded in the early 1970s.

"A small team that worked with me -- we invented the Big Mac hamburger container," he says.

After selling that company, he founded Huntsman Chemical Corp. But long before he became a billionaire, Huntsman believed in spreading his wealth.

"There's just a certain joy in your heart to be able to help somebody else -- even when you're struggling," he says.

"When my wife and I made only $300 a month as a naval officer right out of college and I had debts to pay, we always gave $50 a month away to charity in addition to our tithing," he says. "It was just something that in my heart I've always believed, that if you are generous and help others, you'll be blessed in your own life. And more importantly, it's just the right thing to do."

Huntsman spent more than a decade on the Forbes billionaire list, but he's fallen off it due to his many contributions -- something he's fine with.

So far, he and his family have donated more than $1.2 billion to thousands of charities and individuals in the United States and abroad, and he's dedicated his life and fortune to curing cancer.

That dedication goes back decades. Huntsman's mother, who taught him about the importance of giving, died from cancer, as did his father and stepmother.

Huntsman himself has also battled cancer, and has survived prostate cancer, mouth cancer and two types of skin cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute, one or two children develop cancer for every 10,000 children in the United States. While progress has been made in treating and curing children with cancer, it's still the leading cause of death by disease among U.S. children ages 1 to 14.

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT