Dedicated advocates: From left, the Landreths, McDougle, and Clarence Schutt, PhD, director of the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation
In the years since their grandson Luke “Tug” Bailey, 11, was diagnosed with autism, Robert E. (Bob) and Donna Landreth of Midland, Texas, have sought help and answers. Nonverbal and socially impaired, Tug struggles to connect with the world. None of the prescribed medications has helped bring him out of his shell.
Seven years ago while vacationing on Cape Cod, Bob Landreth learned about LADDERS, then a clinical program of MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) and now the core of the Lurie Center for Autism. “I heard it was on the forefront of autism treatment research, so I thought why not take advantage of their resources,” said Bob Landreth, who drove to the clinic that week, walked in and told the woman at the front desk about Tug. “They were just so welcoming right from the beginning. She said, ‘Absolutely we can help you,’ and scheduled an appointment for us to see Dr. Margaret Bauman [founding director of LADDERS] and Dr. Tim Buie, pediatric gastroenterologist at the clinic.”
Since that time, the couple have become dedicated advocates for autism research and awareness. As part of this commitment, they have donated $5 million to the MGHfC to establish the Robert E. and Donna Landreth Fund for the Study of Neuroinflammation in Autism. The funds will support the work of Christopher McDougle, MD, director of the Lurie Center for Autism, who is investigating how inflammation within the brain may be related to the cause of autism in some people who have the disorder.
“We knew a solid source of funding was needed so that Dr. McDougle and his team could pursue this research without interruption over a five-year period. We thought this was a way for us to give back and to do some good,” Bob Landreth said.
McDougle thanked the Landreths during a special evening ceremony at the hospital on Jan. 28. “I’m really looking forward to working with Bob and Donna as we launch this exciting new avenue of investigation,” he said. “I am humbled and honored to have been given this opportunity to be the steward of this remarkable gift. I believe our institution can accomplish great things in this area of investigation during their lifetime.”
The evening also included another generous gift announcement. The Lurie Center received a $5 million challenge grant from Nancy Lurie Marks and the Nancy Lurie Marks Family Foundation, which helped establish the center in 2009 thanks to an initial $29 million donation. This most recent gift will provide an additional two years of funding for the Lurie Center’s clinical operations.
“We are grateful to Nancy Lurie Marks, her family and the family foundation for their enduring support and their renewed commitment to core clinical services – the foundation of everything we do at the MGH –
which provides us a platform to do extraordinary things,” said Peter L. Slavin, MD, MGH president. “And to the Landreths, you are truly visionary and I applaud your dedication to expediting research and finding answers to this perplexing disorder.”
Read more articles from the 02/01/13 Hotline issue.