Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Announces Transformative Gift to Establish the Nonna’s Garden Foundation Initiative for Cancer Care and Research

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Alexander Drilon and Steven Horwitz and Jedd Wolchok

Part of the gift will be directed to support new cancer therapies, including the research of (left to right) Drs. Alexander Drilon, Jedd Wolchok and Steven Horwitz.

Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK) today announced a generous $50 million gift from Mike and Maria Repole and the Nonna’s Garden Foundation to establish The Nonna’s Garden Foundation Initiative for Cancer Care and Research at MSK. The initiative will support several research and patient care areas at MSK, focusing on lymphoma and melanoma therapies, early drug development, and immuno-oncology. It will also provide financial assistance for pediatric patients and support advances and enhancements in patient care at MSK Commack, a regional care network location offering outpatient services for residents of Long Island.

“We are profoundly grateful to Mike and Maria and the Nonna’s Garden Foundation for this generous gift which will support and accelerate significant efforts in high-priority areas of translational and clinical research and patient care initiatives, said Lisa M. DeAngelis, MD, MSK’s Physician-In-Chief. “In his decade-long commitment to MSK, Mike and the Nonna’s Garden Foundation have made a meaningful difference in the lives of hundreds of MSK patients and, by extension, the lives of cancer patients around the world. This special gift, announced on what would have been his Nonna’s 95th birthday, is a wonderful way to pay tribute to her legacy.”

Mike Repole

Courtesy of Mike Repole

Mike Repole is a former resident of Long Island, with strong ties to the community. Therefore, the MSK Commack patient care building will be named in recognition of this generous gift and the contributions the Repoles and the Nonna’s Garden Foundation have made in support of MSK and the mission to bring cancer care closer to home. This is the first time one of MSK’s regional care network locations has been recognized in this way. Following its dedication in 2022, the MSK Commack building will be called The Nonna’s Garden Foundation Center, in honor of the matriarch of the Repole family, and the donation will support special initiatives there. The Commack site will continue to be known as MSK Commack.

The inspiration for this gift was born out of Mike’s love for his grandmother (“Nonna”), who was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma at the age of 79 and treated by Medical Oncologist Steven M. Horwitz, MD. Initially given a critical diagnosis, Mike’s grandmother enrolled in a successful clinical trial at MSK which enabled her to live 15 more years post diagnosis before she passed away in 2020. The Repole family credits MSK for giving them more time with the family’s matriarch, who was able to meet her great-granddaughter, Gioia Mia (Mike and Maria’s daughter), before Nonna passed. Part of the gift will be directed to support new cancer therapies, including the research of Dr. Horwitz as well as that of Jedd D. Wolchok, MD, PhD, FASCO, Lloyd J. Old/Virginia and Daniel K. Ludwig Chair in Clinical Investigation and Chief, Immuno-Oncology Service, HOPP, and Alexander Drilon, MD, Chief, Early Drug Development Service. Drs. Horwitz, Wolchok and Drilon are all recipients of previous funding from Mike and the Foundation.

Nonna's Garden Foundation logo

Courtesy of Paula Grant

The son of Italian immigrants, Mike was raised in Middle Village, Queens, with his parents, Benny and Anna, his brother, Gerard, his Nonna, and his Aunt Michelle. Upon graduation from St. John’s University, he entered the beverage industry and eventually co-founded vitaminwater, which was sold to Coca-Cola in 2007. After, Mike worked on several ventures and most recently co-founded BODYARMOR Sports Drink, which announced its sale to Coca-Cola in November 2021. When his beloved Nonna was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, he founded Nonna’s Garden Foundation in her honor and over the years, the Repoles and the Foundation have donated more than $7 million to cancer research at MSK. 

“Family, friends, faith, health, and happiness is how I measure success. Nonna and my parents always taught me to help others and, most important, to give people what they want in life and you will get what you want. Thanks to God and MSK, my family and I were blessed to have 15 more years with my Nonna,” said Repole. “I am forever grateful to MSK and by supporting their mission we hope to help as many people as we can extend their lives and experience so many special moments with their loved ones just as we were able to do with my Nonna.”