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Kanaly Family Continues Support of Medical School Research Programs
Houston family touched by Multiple Sclerosis and Parkinson's disease funds further research
The Kanaly family understands the importance of smart investments. Brothers Drew, Steve and Jeff work together at Kanaly Trust, the financial services company founded by their father, the late Deane Kanaly, more than 30 years ago. Their mother, Virginia "Ginger" Kanaly serves on the company's board of directors.
She says that, in addition to teaching them about the family business, Deane instilled in their sons a devotion to supporting worthy causes, especially medicine and science.
Steve recalls that as the Kanaly grandchildren grew up, Deane would give each of them $100 during the Christmas season to give to charity. When the family would gather for its Christmas celebration, each grandchild would stand and tell the family about where they decided to make their contribution, why they did it and what they learned from it. Ginger has since carried on the tradition with all six grandchildren. As founding members of the Houston chapter of the Alzheimer's Association and former board members of the American Heart Association, Deane and Ginger Kanaly encouraged their sons to be advocates of health-related causes.
"I think it was only natural that the boys followed in their dad's footsteps to support health-related charities," Ginger Kanaly said. She, obviously, believes in leading by example, as well.
Recently, Ginger Kanaly added $250,000 to the fund established by the family two years ago, bringing the family's total contributions to The University of Texas Medical School at Houston to more than $400,000 for neurology research.
The gifts equally support Parkinson's disease research, under the direction of Mya Schiess, M.D., director of Movement Disorders and Neurodegenerative Disorders and holder of the Adrian Blood Chair in Neurology; and Multiple Sclerosis (MS) research, under the direction of Jerry S. Wolinsky, M.D., holder of the Bartels Family and Opal C. Rankin Professorships in Neurology.
"I am very grateful for the generous support the Kanaly family has given us for our research on Parkinson's disease, said Schiess. "Their support has allowed us to develop cell culture models and animal models of the neuroimmune process mediating degeneration.
"We think these biological markers of disease process can be identified early in Parkinson's disease, before the motor symptoms of the disease are manifested. The ability to develop markers for early pre-clinical diagnosis is a critical step in applying neuroprotective therapies and actually stopping disease progression," Schiess explained.
"We would not have been able to develop these models and the clinical application of our work in Parkinson's disease without the wonderful support from the Kanaly family."
Knowing that the family's gift is helping advance Schiess' work is the ultimate compliment, Drew Kanaly said. "It's turning out that our money is really making a difference," he said. "That's really rewarding."
Drew Kanaly first approached his family with the idea of supporting basic research on Parkinson's and MS.
"There's a family history of both diseases and so rather than standing around waiting for advances, we wanted to do something," Drew Kanaly explained. "We wanted to act on it, even if it was in basic research that wouldn't necessarily benefit any family member. I was convinced through my association with the health science center that the dollars would best be spent on basic research and so I approached the family about it."
Steve Kanaly, who has Parkinson's disease, recalls that "Drew was more active than I in The University of Texas and it was his idea and my dad's to do what they could to help my brother, Jeff, and myself, by helping advance medical research."
Jeff, diagnosed with MS several years ago, said he hopes that funding basic research on the causes of MS and Parkinson's may speed the process of curing both diseases.
"If we can get involved and have a better understanding of the causes and how they can be eradicated by putting dollars toward research and seeing the results of that research, that's phenomenal," Jeff Kanaly said.
"I think most people don't understand, and I didn't initially understand, that you can get involved and you don't have to have a million or $10 million to do it. You can still make a difference," he said.
Ginger Kanaly agrees, adding, "It's gratifying that you don't have to build a building to see remarkable results." Seeing the family's investment in basic research "bear fruit," according to Drew Kanaly, has encouraged him to become even more involved in the work of UT Medical School. Recently, he agreed to chair the school's advisory council.
"Because of this experience with our family's gifts, I have the confidence to go to other people and solicit their support for this institution. If that brings in money, I know it's going to have an impact," Drew Kanaly said.
By Wendy K. Mohon, Institutional Advancement
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