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2013 Annual Report

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“It’s great to have

“It’s great to have such strong support for the Institute’s mission, and every year we ask ourselves, ‘How can we make this event better? How can we make a greater impact?’”–Rebecca Wierda $ 557,000+ Since 2006, Couture for a Cure has raised more than 7,000. 27 GIVE TODAY AT VAI.ORG/GIVE Rebecca Wierda

Signature Special Events A Runway to Discovery Rebecca Wierda is an entrepreneurial fashionista, a woman with strong business acumen, drive and a passion for fine women’s clothing. When she took ownership of Leigh’s, a women’s specialty store and a 30-year-old retail institution in Grand Rapids, she didn’t just fill the racks; she built a new store. Today, Leigh’s is a thriving small business and one of the few locations in West Michigan where women can purchase high-end designer collections. For eight years, Wierda and her team have been partnering with Van Andel Institute to organize Couture for a Cure, a fundraising event benefiting the Institute’s research and education initiatives. The event, first conceived by Carol Van Andel and Wierda, started small with only a few dozen guests gathering at Leigh’s. The event has since grown to host more than 500 guests at Van Andel Institute and has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Institute’s programs. “I love that we can bring this important work into focus.” – Rebecca Wierda Wierda views Couture for a Cure as an event on par with New York’s famed Fashion Week and has made a point of bringing top designers to Van Andel Institute to showcase their seasonal collections. “After doing the event for so many years, we now have designers coming to us and asking to be part of it,” said Wierda. “It’s great to have such strong support for the Institute’s mission, and every year we ask ourselves, ‘How can we make this event better. How can we make a greater impact?’” A Community of Events Couture for a Cure was one of more than 50 signature special events hosted by Van Andel Institute in 2013. Signature special events invite people to develop a connection with the Institute and become active participants in its mission. Events are an important aspect of Van Andel Institute’s fundraising and community engagement strategy, and they create lasting philanthropic partnerships, as well as provide critical funds for the Institute’s biomedical research and education initiatives. “It’s a great showcase for the work being done at Van Andel Institute and a great opportunity for my business to partner with the Institute in support of cancer and disease research as well as science education,” said Wierda. The dynamic businesswoman is proud that Leigh’s can play a role in supporting life-changing cancer and disease research. “My husband lost his father to cancer and my mother is a cancer survivor, so I think it’s really special that we have this world-class research institute in our community and I love that we can bring this important work into focus,” said Wierda. Van Andel Institute National Initiative David and Carol Van Andel, as well as representatives from the Institute, hosted events in cities across the United States with the aim of bringing forth the mission of research, discovery and hope. These events, built on the foundation of community-minded philanthropists and business leaders, helped usher in a new era of nationwide exposure for the Institute. Signature special events van andel institute 28

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