One Man's Search for Answers 21

A Kidney Cancer Diagnosis Prompted Barry Hoeven to Help Others

 

It was a dire diagnosis: stage four kidney cancer. It is not something one wants to hear-ever. When Corona del Mar resident Barry Hoeven got the news from his doctor, he had no idea where that diagnosis would take him.

Now, 17 years later, Hoeven is still alive by being just ahead of the curve in new treatments for kidney cancer, and, along the way, he has improved the lives of others who are suffering from the many rare cancers that exist.

Hoeven has no history of kidney cancer in his family. The California native, born in Glendale and raised in La Cañada, graduated from USC in 1972 with a double major in finance and marketing before completing his MBA through USC’s Entrepreneurial program. He went on to work in commercial real estate as a broker for the Seeley Company, which later became Colliers, until The Irvine Company came calling.

“I was the development and marketing manager for their industrial and office projects,” he says.

Thirty years old in 1980, Hoeven spent the next five years working as vice president of business parks for Public Storage before he and Jim Warmington founded Westport Properties in 1985. Three years later, the two parted ways and Hoeven became chairman of the real estate development and management company.

Fast forward to 1998, the year Hoeven founded U.S. Storage Centers, a development and acquisition company, as well as the trade name for the properties, with Westport Properties being the property and asset management company for the self storage properties throughout the U.S. It was also the year that Hoeven received his kidney cancer diagnosis. He was 48 years old.

“I was shocked when the doctor said I had a tumor on my kidney,” Hoeven says. “He recommended surgery at Hoag Hospital, and they got it all. I had scans every quarter for five years, and I was fine.”

The sixth year the cancer showed up in Hoeven’s lungs. It was then that he began to compile information about kidney cancer and immediately recognized a grave disconnect between the number of people afflicted and the amount of funding and research being conducted to advance treatment options.

In 2007, Hoeven partnered with City of Hope to create the Kure It Cancer Research Fund.

“I chose City of Hope because my oncologist Dr. Robert Figlin was renowned for his kidney cancer research at UCLA, where he treated me for three years, before he moved to City of Hope.”

In 2010, Kure It Cancer Research was incorporated as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit, and Hoeven has since seen it have a broader range and greater impact. He founded it with the goal of having it become the leader in granting research dollars for kidney and other underfunded cancer research.

“We’ve raised nearly $4 million since then,” Hoeven says. “We raised $1 million just last year, and we’re hoping to raise that amount or more annually.”

Besides raising significant funding for Kure It through Hoeven’s Westport Properties and US Storage Centers, he also co-founded an annual fundraiser called Rivals United for a Kure, which has added significantly to the bottom line.

It was a dire diagnosis: stage four kidney cancer. It is not something one wants to hear-ever. When Corona del Mar resident Barry Hoeven got the news from his doctor, he had no idea where that diagnosis would take him.

Now, 17 years later, Hoeven is still alive by being just ahead of the curve in new treatments for kidney cancer, and, along the way, he has improved the lives of others who are suffering from the many rare cancers that exist.

“In 2011, I was approached by filmmaker Jack Baric, who was working on a film called A City Divided, a documentary about the USC/UCLA football rivalry,” ” Hoeven says. “He wanted a charity component to be a part of it.”

Paul McDonald, former USC star quarterback, who went on to have a successful career in the NFL, joined Hoeven and Baric in raising funds for the film’s release, with its debut the focus of the inaugural Rivals for a Kure Gala in 2012. Together, with the following two galas, more than $1 million has been raised for underfunded cancer research at the school’s two renowned cancer research hospitals–UCLA’s Jonsson and USC’s Norris Comprehensive Cancer Centers.

The galas, which are hosted by USC’s McDonald and NFL/UCLA star quarterback Matt Stevens, draw gridiron greats and alums from both schools. Legendary coaches John Robinson and Terry Donahue were the honorees in 2013.

“It’s wonderful to see rival alumni coming together for a common cause,” Hoeven says.

Not only are the alumni united, but so are the research hospitals. Under the guidance of Directors Dr. Judith Gasson from Jonsson and Dr. Stephen Gruber from Norris, Kure It Cancer Research has brought top researchers at both cancer research centers together to collaborate on the four projects funded by the 2015 Rivals United for a Kure grants, in order to share ideas and results to advance the impact of each project.

Going through periods of near death the last 17 years, Hoeven remains optimistic.

“The fact that I’ve been alive all these years after a stage four diagnosis is an anomaly,” he says. “Dr. Figlin has been invaluable as my oncologist and supporter, and I have to say that founding Kure It has been a blessing to me personally, knowing that I’m doing this to help other people, and hoping with our research dollars we can help cancer patients survive and flourish.”