An Interview with Susan Karkoutly,
founder of the Eyad Karkoutly Foundation
You started the Foundation in honor of your son, Eyad, who succumbed to CLL in 2014. Can you tell me a little about him? What is one of your favorite memories from his life?
Eyad was a joyful and kind soul, and I treasured every minute I spent with him. He always made me so proud. Throughout his life, he was admired by his friends, teachers, colleagues, and everyone he encountered for being polite, creative, smart, and genuine. He placed his heart into everything he did, including his legal career, friendships, and authentic love for music. On top of his beautiful smile, comical sense of humor, and musical talents, he was also a celebrated film buff. Even when he was suffering from intense pain, he managed to fill his hospital room with the sounds of laughter, vintage music, and classic movies, and spend long hours joking with his wife, Amanda, family and friends.
You have had great success with your two Fly for a Cure fundraisers. What gave you the idea for a kite flying event? Are you planning to continue to host future events?
I wanted to create a family-friendly fundraising event that could involve the community more, and was inspired to incorporate kite flying activities after a trip to the beach in California. We liked the idea of hosting an event where families and children could fly kites, listen to music, and enjoy other outdoor activities together, while still supporting our efforts to fundraise for a cure.
We’ve hosted two events so far, and have received strong reoccurring attendance and sponsorship, which has helped us reach our initial goals of spreading awareness of our foundation’s name and efforts in the local community and elsewhere. In the few years we have been fundraising, we have realized how little the local community is aware of CLL, and other forms of blood cancer, so we would like to host future events that expand these efforts of awareness. We are currently in discussion of creating other ways to engage and educate the community within our future Fly for a Cure events.
You have donated some of the money you’ve raised to CLL Global Research Foundation to fund CLL clinical research. What led you to decide to support CLL Global?
We were looking for an opportunity to support the advancement of pioneering CLL research, and we were happy to learn about the ways the CLL Global Research Foundation has led globally in treatment option development for CLL patients and were happy to donate to benefit their cause and continued research. Dr. Michael Keating has also been a great advocate and support for our own foundation and regional efforts, being so kind as to attend our fundraising events to share information regarding research advancements.
In addition to the Fly for a Cure events, are there other mechanisms you have for raising money and bringing attention to the Eyad Karkoutly Foundation?
Our foundation primarily exists in West Texas, and is still in its early stages of outreach, but we have managed to raise awareness and community support through social media promotion, local sponsorship, and commercial radio advertising through the local TTU KTTZ-FM NPR station.
Is there anything in particular you would like our readers to know about the Eyad Karkoutly Foundation, or Eyad himself, that we have not already discussed?
From the very beginning of his diagnosis, Eyad never stopped fighting or let his fear overcome his kindness. His ongoing faith, generosity, and positive spirit are what gave him strength, and continue to give us strength everyday. I try my best to relay his positive energy and strength in the foundation’s efforts, and in my daily life.
What I’ve learned most from this experience, is that anyone who loses someone to cancer can, in fact, channel their pain into strength to help others, and join in the fight to find a cure.