Hope Rises from Loss
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) was born out of a family's grief following the death of their teenage son.
Robert Roesler de Villiers (left), son of a well-to-do New York family, was only 16 when he quickly succumbed to leukemia in 1944. Five years later, frustrated by the lack of effective treatments for what was then considered a hopeless disease, parents Rudolph and Antoinette de Villiers started a fundraising and education organization in their son's name.
Headquartered in a small Wall Street office, the Robert Roesler de Villiers Foundation had only a few volunteers and a tiny budget. The task was daunting. Most leukemia patients, especially children, died within three months. Even by the mid-1950s, when the first-generation chemotherapy drugs began appearing, the disease remained a stubborn challenge. The Foundation reported in its 1955 annual report: "As of this date, Leukemia is 100% fatal. This is almost a unique situation among the many diseases to which man is susceptible."
Driven by the de Villiers' nearly boundless belief that leukemia and other blood cancers were indeed curable, the Foundation grew steadily, opening its first chapters in the New York City area. The organization, after changing its name to The Leukemia Society, was renamed The Leukemia Society of America in the 1960s to communicate a broad, national reach.