BEAVERCREEK — Bob Mills, a Miami Valley entrepreneur and fund raiser, has been named the 2010 National Man of the Year by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the nonprofit organization.
The Beavercreek real estate developer and contractor raised $430,507 in the group’s local 10-week competition, vying with 640 candidates across the nation. He is chairman of Synergy Building Systems and the Mills Development Companies.
“The thing that is so incredible is that Bob broke a new record, he is the highest fund-raiser in the history of the program,” said Blair Fogle, director of the project which began in 1990. “What those dollars mean is that we are able to fund more research and more patient services across the country for leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma.”
She said an estimated 912,938 people across the United States currently battle those cancers.
This year’s campaign raised more than $11.5 million nationally, the highest amount ever. Nine local candidates raised nearly $650,000 and celebrated at a grand finale gala on June 4 at the Schuster Center where Mills was named Dayton Man of the Year and Michelle Kaye was named Dayton Woman of the Year.
Mills set his sights on winning the national competition from the start, and said he is most excited about the opportunity to select a cancer research project for each of the $100,000 he raised.
“That means four research projects,” he said. “I’ll probably direct some over to Ohio State.”
His team, “Ally’s Army Battles Cancer,” was named for his oldest granddaughter, Ally Barnett, diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia at the age of 7.
Mills, 60, said he decided to focus on philanthropy after being diagnosed with malignant melanoma at the age of 53.
“It was at the stage where not a lot of people survive,” said Mills. “I made a promise to myself and God that if I survived I would use my remaining years to help other people.”
“In between my cancer and Ally’s, I lost my wife to cancer,” he said. “So this was therapy for me. I don’t know how to mix chemicals or perform surgery to beat cancer, but I know how to organize and manage programs to raise money.”
To achieve success for the leukemia project, Mills went after both corporate and individual sponsors and hosted a series of events — including a party at his home attended by 600. He also conducted an extensive letter-writing and online donation campaign. He admits he hates asking people for money, but said “you gotta look at the cause.”
Although he anticipated the national win, Mills said many people in large cities “had set lofty goals for themselves and it’s hard to compete in a small city like Dayton.”
This win, he said, is important on a number of fronts.
“It will bring us some of the good oncology docs. And people will recognize that the Dayton community has great concern about cancer research and wants to help.”
Contact this reporter at (937) 225-2440 or MMoss@DaytonDailyNews.com