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$15 million gift from Carl and Renée Behnke & family to support cancer center campaign
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$15 million gift from Carl and Renée Behnke & family to support cancer center campaign

Longtime supporters and civic leaders Carl and Renée Behnke have donated $15 million to help launch an ambitious, comprehensive campaign and accelerate precision oncology research at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center.

In recognition of the Behnkes’ extraordinary generosity, South Lake Union House — an 80-unit building that offers affordable short-term lodging to patients who travel to Fred Hutch for care — is being renamed the Behnke Family House.

The Behnke family has been involved as advocates and supporters since Fred Hutch’s earliest days, with three generations holding volunteer leadership positions. When Carl Behnke spearheaded a capital campaign in the early 1990s and chaired the boards of both Fred Hutch and Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, he was following in the footsteps of his mother, Sally Skinner Behnke, who also served as board chair. Renée Behnke has been a longtime fundraising partner and the couple’s daughters, Marisa and Merrill, and respective sons-in-law, Corey Ginsberg and Ryan Broms, are members of the Innovators Network, a community of next-generation Fred Hutch supporters.

In 2025, Fred Hutch will mark its 50th anniversary. “It’s impossible to overstate how important this family’s guidance and generosity have been to Fred Hutch’s first five decades of breakthroughs,” said Fred Hutch President and Director Thomas J. Lynch, Jr., MD, who holds the Raisbeck Endowed Chair. “Their enthusiastic support will continue to fuel progress for decades to come.”

With this gift, the Behnkes join the Anniversary Challenge, an initiative to bring together Fred Hutch’s philanthropic community to support the cost of designing, building and equipping a new building to house the Stuart and Molly Sloan Precision Oncology Institute. The $225 million challenge, part of a landmark 2022 gift from the Bezos family, will match every gift of $1 million or more received by June 30, 2028.

“It’s an honor for Renée and me to be among the first to donate to the Anniversary Challenge,” said Carl Behnke. “Being on the leading edge of giving helps keep Fred Hutch on the leading edge of discovery.”

Much of that discovery in the next decade will be in the field of precision oncology, the science and practice of transforming a deep and ever-expanding ocean of data into effective treatments, diagnostic tools and risk-reduction strategies tailored to individuals.

The future Stuart and Molly Sloan Precision Oncology Institute Building, flanked by research buildings on two sides and leading-edge clinics on a third, will stand at the intersection of science and patient care.

The building will foster collaborations between researchers, clinicians and patients, with a flexible design to keep pace with fast-evolving science. It will be a hub for learning and teaching, a breeding ground for creative partnerships and an ideal environment to realize the full scope and scale of potential discoveries. Construction is expected to start in 2025 and be complete by early 2029.

The Behnke family’s generosity in the region has deep roots.

“We have a tradition of contributing, of helping out in our community,” said Carl Behnke. “I support Fred Hutch because it’s one of the world’s premier cancer centers and it’s right here in Seattle.”

The Anniversary Challenge is part of Fred Hutch’s ambitious new campaign to raise $3 billion in the next decade to fuel progress in cancer and infectious disease research.

Carl and Renée Behnke are eager to ensure a strong start to the campaign, he added, because, as grandparents of six, they want to transform cancer for the generations that follow.

“We are excited about the promise of discovery, and this campaign is an important step,” he said. “Fred Hutch has made incredible strides, but there is a long way to go.”

In addition to supporting Fred Hutch, the Behnke family is deeply connected to many health, education and arts organizations in the community.

Recognizing the Behnkes’ gift by naming a patient accommodation in their honor is particularly fitting, noted Kelly O’Brien, vice president and chief philanthropy officer at Fred Hutch.

“Carl and Renée are the consummate hosts and go out of their way to make people feel welcome and appreciated,” she said. “We are honored to link their family’s name to a home away from home for families who have to travel to Fred Hutch for cancer treatment.”

For their part, Carl and Renée Behnke want guests at the Behnke Family House to know how important it is to them that they have a warm, welcoming and comfortable place to stay during treatment.

Adding their name to the building makes community support visible to patients going through a difficult time and honors the multigenerational generosity of an extraordinary family.

Photo: Multigenerational generosity: Renée and Carl Benhke (center) with their daughters and sons-in-law, Marisa Behnke and Corey Ginsberg (left) and Merrill Behnke and Ryan Broms (right). 

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