Money Taken From Hutchinson Cancer Center Volunteer Confesses To Taking More Than $110,000 From Charity
A volunteer has admitted taking more than $110,000 from a charity raising money for the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, officials confirmed Friday.
“We are cooperating fully with the King County prosecutor’s office on this situation,” said Karen Lane, senior vice president for development at the renowned cancer center, which pioneered bone-marrow transplants and draws patients from all over the world.
“We are shocked by the news and will be working with the individual and our insurance company on a plan for restoring the money,” she said. “We are also taking procedural steps to ensure this can’t happen again.”
About $113,000 is believed to be missing, the center said in a news release. Copies of financial records have been turned over to the Arthur Andersen accounting firm for a complete audit, expected to take about two weeks.
Lane and Gerry Swanson, chairman of the Hutchinson board of trustees, said they were unaware of any similar incidents in the past.
The volunteer worked for the Grace Heffernan Arnold Guild, one of 21 Hutchinson center guilds established to raise money for cancer research.
“We are dismayed about this news, and we’re shocked,” the guild president, Suzanne Hight, said Thursday.
The 50-member Arnold guild holds an annual Holiday Gala that raised $665,000 last year and more than $3 million for the center in the past 20 years.
“One of the volunteers for the guild, through an attorney, came forward to disclose that, indeed, funds had been taken without authorization from the guild,” Lane said.
“It appears that the activity was going on for two to three years,” Lane said, adding that she had no background on the individual involved.
Neither the center nor the volunteer’s attorney, Scott Engelhard, would identify the female volunteer by name, though Lane said she was the Arnold guild’s treasurer.
Engelhard, who would neither confirm nor deny reports of missing funds in a Thursday interview with the Journal American newspaper of Bellevue, urged the newspaper not to report on the matter at all, suggesting publicity could damage future Hutchinson fund-raising efforts.
“I guess we feel very strongly that this is a marvelous group of women that has worked very, very hard for almost two decades … and we believe that the community will continue to support them as they move forward to their 20th anniversary gala,” she said.
The Journal American carried a report on the missing funds Friday, and the cancer center confirmed the information in a news release later in the morning.
The guild system has raised a total of $7 million for the center since its doors opened in 1975. Most of the center’s $130 million annual budget comes from research grants and patient fees, but the volunteer money is used for items those funds don’t cover, Lane said.
“It’s really significant support,” Swanson said.
Funds raised by the Arnold guild are supporting research on molecular medicine, the Hutchinson center school for patients and patients’ children, a chaplain program and a cancer information service.
It was named for Grace Arnold, a local philanthropist and wife of former Seafirst bank Chairman Lawrence Arnold, who died of cancer in 1960 at age 62.
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