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William Runkle and the Will-Power Cancer Research Fund

The U of M’s Will-Power Cancer Research Fund is a new partnership of humans and animals to eradicate the causes of cancer in both. This unique collaboration at the university links research efforts and studies common to each group and derives mutual treatment benefits.

The human willpower for discovery and cure for all cancers has always existed. The animal side of the partnership is being driven by the close bonds that we have with our animal friends. Our early loss of a canine member of our family, named William, has lead us to discover the people involved in the leading edge biological work being done at the University’s Animal Cancer Care and Research (ACCR) program which is under the leadership of Dr. Jaime Modiano. We know that the U of M is “Driven to Discover” because it is their mantra and it is their passion as a leading research university. Every researcher there has the skills and determination to move the bar forward in cancer research. Our community of dog enthusiasts and network of friends has turned on our “Will-Power” to be involved and do something that can truly make a difference in improving the outcomes for both human and animal cancer patients.
Many people came together to offer cards, flowers and donation monies when they heard that we lost William to an extremely quick acting and uncommon cancer affecting Golden Retrievers. William was special to us and was a nationally ranked “top-20 show dog.” He was owner handled by my wife, LuAnn, and had many titles including qualifying as an Outstanding Sire and is in the Golden Retriever Club of America’s Show Dog Hall of Fame. He held American Kennel Club (AKC) as well as Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) Champion titles and had several Best-In-Show wins. Most importantly, he was a friendly, easy going, sweet, wanting to please, tail waggin dog that shared our living room couch with us.

Very early one morning after a prior evening’s obedience and rally training session, he was discovered to have a high temperature. Since this elevated temperature was high enough to immediately concern us, we opted to drive him immediately to the U of M’s CVM ER well before our regular vet office would open. In the Twin Cities, we consider the U of M’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) to be the “Mayo Clinic” for our animals. After many many diagnostic tests, surgery and treatments in and out of the ICU over the next 32 days, William lost this battle with cancer.

However the war on cancer continues for Friends of William - both animal and human.

My wife and I did not know very much about ACCR until about a year after losing William. Our friends’ donation money was intended for a possible William memorial magazine ad in the GRNews which is common to mark the passing of a popular Golden. However, we wanted William’s memorial monies to do something more for the breed and other animals. We also hoped to find a local connection for the donations, but we hadn’t found the best use yet. Our local Greater Twin Cities Golden Retriever Club of 130 members was invited to tour of the College of Veterinary Medicine on the St. Paul campus and we participated. We were inspired by the guides, stewardship people, DVM’s and staff that we had not known. Touring the ICU where William was treated was really tough however. We knew that the CVM did everything possible to discover William’s problem before it was too late, but the state of the art at that time - was just that - and all things can’t be cured.

So… fast forward to a subsequent meeting with one of our CVM tour guides named Shirley. She invited my wife, LuAnn, and I to say a few words at the next CVM Memorial Gardens ceremony and place a “brick” in the CVM Purina Memorial Garden in memory of our William. Somehow, we found the willpower to do this and there we had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Modiano after his talk at the same event.

We discovered that we had William’s “Will-Power” to get the word out about the ACCR and its mission to advance the knowledge of cancer biology and improve the outcomes for human and animal victims. It is unique in that it leverages the current areas of expertise within the University of Minnesota’s system and “connects the dots” in cancer research discoveries in the Masonic Cancer Center (MCC) (human side) with similar efforts at the College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) (animal side).

This was the beginnings of the Will-Power Cancer Research Fund idea. William’s memorial monies were pledged; The Greater Twin Cities Golden Retriever Club endorsed it and made a sizable donation, the local MBCA-TC car club made another donation, The Lake Minnetonka Kennel Club did likewise and several local veterinary clinics contributed as well as did many more of William’s friends joining in to start the fund. Dr. Modiano made a special Will-Power Cancer Research Fund Kick-Off presentation which the U of M CVM hosted on campus in the fall of 2009.

Now comes the important part. We believe that you too have the same willpower that we and our friends found. Please consider becoming an important part of this ongoing human and animal research partnership and tell your other friends and club members about it. Considering supporting the fund with a donation.Your donation is really a “2-fer” as it benefits the animals and you too. Your efforts and dedication to pass the word will make THE difference in the “Will-Power” Fund and the resulting discoveries. Cancer affects all of our pets -not just Show Dogs - just as it affects all people. The Will-Power Cancer Research Fund does NOT just support and benefit only the Golden Retriever breed. It includes all animals since the genes and cancers overlap. There are many organizations raising the awareness of cancer and soliciting funding. The U of M’s ACCR and the Modiano-Lab provide a direct way for pet owners and people alike to get involved with the research and focus your important donations.

We all have the “Will-Power” and desire for cancer cures so we invite you to support cancer research at the U of M’s ACCR.
Dave and LuAnn Runkle
SixSigma Kennels
Wayzata, MN

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