September 01, 2013
Communicating the Institute’s work is her priority.
After nearly 30 years of involvement with the John Wayne Cancer Institute, Ilene Eisenberg feels a deep connection to the staff and her friends on the Institute’s Auxiliary. “The John Wayne Cancer Institute is like a second family. The doctors, the women of the Auxiliary – it’s a unique group,” she says.
Ilene joined the Auxiliary after her father died of cancer. She performed many duties in support of the group over the years and served as its co-president from 2006 to 2008. In 2011, she received the Angel Award for her service. The Angel Award is presented each year by the Auxiliary to a woman who has made a significant contribution to the Institute and serves as a role model to women everywhere.
Ilene is known for the grace in which she handles life’s challenges. Her husband, Juels, was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in 1998 and died two years later at the age of 59. After his passing, she honored him with a gift that supports the Institute’s publication of a biannual magazine, now called Innovations.
“After he died, I wanted to do something, but I didn’t want to put his name on a plaque or wall or something,” Ilene recalls. “Joyce Green [former JWCI senior vice president of development and public affairs] said, ‘Why don’t you fund the magazine in memory of him?’ My husband always said the John Wayne Cancer Institute was a well-kept secret. He thought it was important to get the message out to people.”
The Institute has remained a big part of the Eisenberg family’s lives. Ilene was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2001 and was successfully treated by doctors here. Now her children, Michael, Stephanie and Craig, and grandchildren have joined the cause, supporting the Institute’s work. Each of her grandchildren donated some of the gifts from their bar mitzvah and bat mitzvah celebrations to the Institute in honor of their grandfather, Juels.
“It’s a family affair,” Ilene says. “They realize how important it is to give back. We are so fortunate to have the Institute.”