By Ernest A. Jasmin, Puyallup Tribal News
A new tradition was born on Saturday, Dec. 9, as the inaugural Giving Hope Gala took over the Emerald Queen Event Center for a night of auctions, music, culture, gourmet dining and, most of all, inspiration.
This black-tie affair was held to raise money for patients of the Salish Cancer Center. “This is the Puyallup Tribe’s first year ever doing this kind of an event, and we’ll definitely be doing it every year,” Puyallup Tribal Councilwoman Monica Miller explained.
Salish Cancer Center was the first Tribe-owned facility of its kind in the United States when it opened in 2015.
Since then, it has been an important resource for cancer patients in the community to have access to prompt, state-of-the-art, up-to-date cancer treatment that includes not only chemotherapy, targeted therapy and immunotherapy but also naturopathic medicine, acupuncture and traditional Native healer services that have resulted in overall better treatment outcomes.
The event raised $532,000 for the center’s patients. Donations and contributions will play a crucial role in providing financial support to individuals and families facing the challenges of cancer.
“Our Salish Cancer Center is open to the public. All patients who need service are welcome,” Councilwoman Miller said, emphasizing that no patients are turned away. “This money will go towards helping patients get the care, medicine and treatment they need.”
Giving Hope attendees were dressed to the nines in dark suits and glamorous gowns, and the EQC Event Center was given a swanky makeover with decorative foliage, pastel mood lighting and a shrimp bar topped by an ornate ice sculpture. A harpist and flutist provided soothing ambiance as attendees dined on Tuscan salad, surf and turf and Opera cake.
Members of Culture Department were bathed in warm, violet light towards the beginning of the program as they performed traditional songs and dances that provided good medicine for the event. Heritage Division Manager Connie McCloud offered a moving prayer.
“My aunt, in particular, she did not want to give up,” McCloud recalled. “She wanted to do everything she could, everything possible, and she got a lot of support from the cancer care center to be able to do that.”
Saturday’s event also included live and silent auctions with bidders competing for donated prizes that included suite access for watching Seattle’s professional sports teams, tickets to see a 2026 FIFA World Cup game and a package for eight to fly to Las Vegas on a private jet and stay at the MGM Grand.
Auctioneer Jeff Randle egged bidders on with rapid-fire chatter, slowing down to fill the occasional lull with a well-timed joke. “If at any time you’re not sure what’s going on, just raise your bid card,” he quipped at one point.
South Sound Care Foundation President Mary Byrne served as event emcee, while Sally Glover, that organization’s executive director, assigned tables and collected donations and contributions.
Byrne welcomed Puyallup Tribal Council Chairman Bill Sterud, Gov. Jay Inslee, Puyallup Tribe Medical Director Alan Shelton and Salish Cancer Center Medical Director Stanlee Lu to the stage from which they delivered inspiring remarks on the battle to overcome cancer.
Gov. Inslee praised the Puyallup Tribe for creating jobs, being caretakers of the environment and especially having a compassionate vision for the Salish Cancer Center.
“I know you are giving hope to people on so many days in so many ways,” Inslee said. “We all know because it’s (cancer) touched all of our families. We know how difficult those first days are when you’ve been given a difficult diagnosis. But to provide the hope that you do is an astounding thing.”
Inslee also used the opportunity to promote his Climate Commitment Act bill, the day before he announced plans to earmark $941 million to go after polluters and fight climate change, a cause he linked to healthcare.
“The State of Washington wants to prevent cancer from happening in the first place,” Inslee said, “and that’s why we are reducing air pollution and water pollution that can cause cancer.”
Chairman Sterud made passing reference to environmentalism during his remarks before elaborating on the Tribe’s vision for healthcare.
“As we stand here, we are reminded of our forebears who taught us the values of kinship, stewardship of the land and the importance of community wellbeing,” Sterud said. “These values have guided our Tribe since time immemorial and today inspire our commitment to healthcare and holistic wellbeing.
“The Salish Cancer Center represents more than a healthcare facility. It is a beacon of hope; a place where modern medicine meets traditional healing. Our approach to cancer is unique. We strive to treat not just the illness but the whole person, respecting and integrating our cultural heritage into every aspect of treatment.”
Dr. Shelton described a trip that he and Chairman Sterud took to Phoenix 15 years ago to visit Cancer Treatment Centers of America, a 210,000-square-foot treatment facility that provided inspiration for the Tribe’s own center.
“They have this large hospital and quite an operation going, and we were touring it,” Shelton recalled, “and he turned to me and said, ‘We can do this.’ … I mean, it’s just amazing what’s happened in the last almost eight years. It took a vision. It took the Chairman’s vision.”
Dr. Lu later introduced a video that profiled patients who had received care at the center, asking those present to stand and be acknowledged.
“Nobody should ever be in the position where they have to worry whether they could afford to pay for their potentially life-saving treatment or not,” Lu said. “There are so many stories out there … that, unfortunately, have ended more tragically, and tonight the aim is to change that.”
Puyallup Tribal Council Vice Chairwoman Sylvia Miller took the stage before the Rolling Stone tribute band, Gimme Shelter, brought the evening to a festive finale. She honored Byrne by wrapping her in a blanket and praised the Salish staff, noting that “several council members have been diagnosed by the wonderful doctors that sit in this room.”
Monica Miller singled out doctors Shelton and Lu for additional praise. “They both have a heart of gold for all patients,” she said.
Councilwoman Miller also thanked Byrne, South Sound Care Foundation Executive Director Sally Glover and Tammi Barber of TLB Events for helping organize this inaugural event and making it all possible and Kevin Karl of Fife RV Center for his generous support. “It was an amazing event. All the love and heart in that room was totally amazing,” she said.