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Toby's Take: No Place Like Home

treads and threads 2023

October 16, 2023

As a lifelong Kansan, I might be a little sensitive to cracks about Dorothy and Toto and the Wicked Witch. But even I had to think, “There’s no place like home.” Although we could have done without what looked like a tornado about to tear through the plains.

Angry clouds and a gully washer blew through, and then Treads & Threads officially returned to Kansas Speedway on Saturday, September 16. It’s black-tie (with some imaginative variations). The “black-and-white turned color” event raised a record $2.3 million for an all-in-one cancer building to be built on our 39th and Rainbow campus in Kansas City.

“The building is transformational,” said Shawn Long, health system vice president of Fund Development and Corporate and Community Outreach. His team puts on Treads & Threads every year.

“For a lot of folks,” Long said, “if they haven’t experienced cancer, thank God. If they have, they realize how important this cancer center is to the region. Being able to tell this story, we’ll probably tell it, my guess is, for a couple more Treads & Threads to come that the main focus for philanthropy for cancer services is going to be getting that building up and rolling.”

A return to the speedway

Treads took a pause during COVID-19 and then came back in 2022 for a 1-time stop at the Truman Sports Complex. That was a great venue with the stage and dance floor nestled between Arrowhead and Kauffman stadiums, homes of the Kansas City Chiefs and Royals. So it really did feel like a homecoming when the region’s best “Party with a Purpose” came back to the speedway.

“A lot of people come back year after year. It’s a great event,” said Tammy Peterman, president of the Kansas City Division and executive vice president, chief operating officer and chief nursing officer of The University of Kansas Health System. “We have great entertainment. But I also love the fact we have new people who are now joining and participating in the event.”

We even put out the red carpet for partygoers. And promptly pulled it back up when the pre-event storm soaked it slick.

Maybe a yellow-brick road might have been better. Then again, it seems we’ve been on one for a quarter century. The health system has just started to celebrate a 25th anniversary of the establishment of The University of Kansas Hospital Authority, which gave us independence from state control and funding and launched us on a path to improvements in patient satisfaction and high-quality outcomes.

That span has seen skyrocketing growth and excellence (we’ll dive into that in a future blog). So this year’s return to Kansas Speedway seemed all the more appropriate. Country music artist Lee Brice headlined this year, and attendees danced away to the fan-favorite Emerald City Band.

Being able to tell this story, we’ll probably tell it for a couple more Treads & Threads to come that the main focus for philanthropy for the cancer service line is going to be getting that (cancer) building up and rolling.” Shawn Long

Vice President of Fund Development and Corporate and Community Outreach

A party with a purpose

Funds from the evening will go toward the creation of something we’ve “dreamed about” (still loosely carrying on the Oz theme). The $2.3 million will go toward construction of a new global destination cancer center for transformational cancer research and patient care. Tucked in the ever-expanding campus the health system shares with the University of Kansas Medical Center, the new building will put those who research cancer and those who treat cancer patients right down the hall from each other.

A lead grant of $100 million from the Sunderland Foundation earlier this year kick-started a drive by our fund development team to make sure the building happens in coordination with the university and our joint venture, the region’s only National Cancer Institute (NCI)-designated comprehensive cancer center, The University of Kansas Cancer Center.

Oh, and the food.

Being back at the speedway meant inviting Kansas City (a foodie town, if nothing else) to bring its best restaurants down onto the raceway infield again in grand fashion. Eating fancy food, wearing fancy clothes and walking through race car garages is always a blast.

Since 2002, Treads & Threads sponsors, patrons and guests have raised more than $25 million. If galas aren’t your thing, you should at least know several hundred people gather once a year for the expressed, and really only, purpose of saving lives for future generations.

Say all the movie lines if you want. We clicked our ruby slippers and landed back where we started. Was it all a dream? No way. With determination, we’ll keep hosting this affair. In living color.

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