Students in Courtyard

2021-22 Foundation Highlights

Donor of the Year

Evelyn Brandt Thomas

Donor of the year

Nestled next to the Simmons Cancer Institute in Springfield is a landscaped corner that exudes calm and natural beauty. The Thomas Garden of Hope is an inviting oasis of colorful flowers, native prairie plants, ferns and ornamental trees beside a rocky stream bed. The garden honors Gordon Reich Thomas, the spouse of Evelyn Brandt Thomas. Gordon died of lung cancer in March 2003. 

Evelyn was instrumental in creating the garden adjacent to the first-floor chemotherapy suites. It’s modeled after Rocky Branch, the Thomas family farm near Mt. Sterling in Brown County, Ill.  Each June the pastoral setting in Springfield’s medical district is the site of a remembrance fundraiser for loved ones lost to cancer and an uplifting salute to survivors. The proceeds support cancer research at SIU School of Medicine. Hundreds of butterflies are released at the ceremony’s conclusion. That was Evelyn’s idea, too. 

Mrs. Brandt Thomas is a country girl at heart, but she is one who thinks globally and acts locally. And she also gives generously. This is fortunate for patients visiting the cancer institute, and for the residents of central and southern Illinois. She is the SIU Foundation’s Donor of the Year.