Mission

Cure children in Africa diagnosed with cancer.

Statement on Equity

What we do

We are a nonprofit organization based in Seattle, Washington that funds programs designed to diagnose and treat children in Africa with Burkitt’s Lymphoma and other childhood cancers. In cooperation with our program partners in the USA and Africa, BLFA works to ensure that patients and their families receive the medical, social, economic, and logistical support needed to help them successfully complete curative treatment.

How we began

In September 2009, our founder, Miriam Sevy, visited a pediatric cancer ward while on a trip to Kisumu, Kenya. She was deeply saddened to see children with facial deformities and distended abdomens associated with Burkitt Lymphoma, a common form of pediatric cancer in Africa. Pain medication was the only treatment option available at the time. This was barely keeping these children comfortable while they awaited death. Miriam was so moved by what she saw that in 2010 she started the Burkitt’s Lymphoma Fund for Africa (BLFA) to solicit donations for organizations supporting these children and their families. Sadly, Miriam passed away in early 2015, but her legacy lives on through the BLFA.

We do not want any child with cancer to suffer. As our programs developed, we met children with other forms of cancer and are now expanding our reach to support these children as well.

Current Board Members

Suzanne McGoldrick

President

Ned Palmer

Vice President*

Jackson Mwatibo

Treasurer

Karen Osofsky Michelson

Secretary

Steven Kussick

Past President

Adam Morrow

Grants Committee Chair
and Past President*

Raj Uthamantil
Nixon Niyonzima

Program Management

Kerry Sturgill

Program Manager

Advisers

Henry Burkitt

Global Programs Advisor *

Tony Boova

Pathology Improvement Program Advisor

Past Board Members

Kerry Sturgill photo

Founder*

Miriam served as the President of Leora Consulting Group for 15 years. She served as a financial advisor to over 70 non-profit and local government organizations in the Pacific Northwest. She served as Treasure and Finance Committee Chair for Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle: and taught Finance at Seattle University and Pacific Lutheran University. Miriam graduated from Harvard University with a Master’s Degree in Public Administration.

RUTH WANG’ONDU photo

Medical Advisor

Ruth Wang’ondu, MD PhD is currently a Pediatric Hematology-Oncology Fellow at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Prior to her fellowship, Ruth completed a residency in the combined medicine and pediatrics program at Yale New Haven Hospital. Dr. Wang’ondu received her medical degree and doctorate in Cell Biology from Yale School of Medicine. For her PhD thesis, she studied Epstein-Barr virus (EBV), a virus capable of causing cancer in humans, which is associated with Burkitt’s Lymphoma. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Wellesley College where, as a Davis United World College Scholar, she majored in biochemistry and sociology with a concentration in Human Rights. Upon graduation from Wellesley she was awarded The Doctor Leila C. Knox prize in Biology and the Lingos Prize in the Life Sciences. Dr. Wang’ondu has had strong interests in global health ever since engaging in a community service project in her home country, Kenya, where she witnessed the tragic results of lack of access to health care on scores of impoverished HIV-positive children and adults. She is keen on applying her medical and scientific skills to make a positive social impact.

PAULA MCGEE photo

Secretary*

Paula spent the past 30 years working in the regulatory compliance field, specifically for public corporations. Paula held the position of corporate securities paralegal at Nordstrom until she retired in 2017. She has also been actively involved with corporate boards. Paula’s work experience has been focused on regulatory compliance for public companies – especially SEC compliance. In this capacity she managed complex projects, wrote and edited reporting documents, particularly with an eye to making the information accessible and understandable by the public. Paula has been a consultant for a local nonprofit, volunteered with the Girl Scouts, been a foster parent and provided volunteer care for the elderly.

AYO AJAYI photo

Medical Advisor*

Dr. Ayo Ajayi most recently worked for The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation as the director of the Africa Team, leading the foundation’s work on policy, advocacy, and government relations across the continent. According to the Daily Maverick, an African newspaper based out of South Africa, Ayo is “The Most Powerful African You’ve Never Heard Of”. Dr. Ajayi joined the foundation in 2014 from PATH, where he served as Vice President for International Development. Dr. Ajayi served as regional director for sub-Saharan Africa for the Population Council for 16 years, leading the establishment of the organization’s presence and programmatic work in reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, social science and operations research. Previously, he was Africa regional vice president for Pathfinder International, served as a government health officer in Nigeria, and taught at Boston University School of Public Health. Dr. Ajayi has served as technical advisor and program evaluator for the United States Agency for International Development, the World Health Organization, and several other United Nations agencies and private foundations. Dr. Ajayi earned his MD from the University of Ibadan Medical School in Nigeria and his Master in Public Health, with a concentration in health systems, from Boston University School of Public Health.

ERICA SESSLE photo

Erica*  is currently serving as Chief of Staff at PATH, the preeminent Global Health non-profit. Prior to this, Erica served as the Chief of Staff at the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Erica also served as the Director of Country Oversight and Accountability at the US Department of State, implementing PEPFAR’s multi-billion dollar HIV/AIDS program in 36 countries and regions. Before PEPFAR, she was the Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of the Hutchinson Center Research Institute Uganda based in both Kampala Uganda, and Seattle at the at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center’s Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute. Erica is a graduate of the University of Toronto and University of Cambridge, and has an MPH in Epidemiology from Johns Hopkins University.

ADINA ALMO photo
Adina* received her BA from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary in 1998. She continued on at the Jewish Theological Seminary and received her MA in Jewish Education in 1999. Adina taught first and second grade Judaic and General Studies at the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan from 1999 to 2002. In 2002 she relocated to Seattle with her husband. From 2002 to 2004, Adina taught second grade Judaic Studies at the Jewish Day School of Metropolitan Seattle. Since 2005, Adina primarily has been working on raising her family of three children and been involved with multiple non-profits aligning with personal ideals. Diagnosed herself with cancer at age 11, Adina describes her interest in joining the Burkitt’s Lymphoma Kenya Fund Board: “As a survivor, I am determined to help children with cancer all over the world defeat their illness and live their lives to the fullest. Joining BLFA will help me achieve this goal.”
CURTIS CUMMINGS photo

Curtis Cummings*, Director. began his career, fresh out of Eastern Washington University, teaching Computer Science for the Community Colleges of Spokane. Being a hands on type of person, Curtis left academia to design and build HP hardware repair facilities, train technicians and perform hands on network design, deployment and operations. Curtis received recognition from regional universities, industry standards bodies and most notably Microsoft, who asked him to join the company to lead the RHINO (Research on High-speed Inter-Networking Operations) project in 1995. Curtis joined Microsoft in 1995 and through the 1990s he designed and delivered many of the core infrastructure services still in place today. Cummings is driven by his passion for service design and his hands on approach to delivering those services. He began applying this passion toward philanthropic efforts in 1998. Since 1998 Cummings has designed, implemented and delivered clean water systems to over 20,000 people in Africa, built roads for rural farmers in the Mountains of Guatemala, improved over 20 primary and secondary schools, constructed sanitation facilities at 12 schools in rural Kenya and developed and built Adiel Primary School in the Nyanzia District of Kenya.

MARGARET LARSON photo

Margaret* is a 30-year veteran of broadcast journalism, working as a foreign correspondent for NBC News from 1990 to 1992, and Today Show News Anchor from 1992 to 1993, later returning as a correspondent for Dateline NBC. For her last decade in journalism, she spent time volunteering with the international aid organization, Mercy Corps and acting as a board member. She left NBC affiliate KING-TV, in Seattle, Washington to accept a full-time position as Vice President of Communications for Mercy Corps in 2002. She then was an independent contractor for international aid organizations, broadening her focus on Africa and HIV/AIDS issues. Larson has consulted with Mercy Corps, World Vision, Global Partnerships, and PATH. Recently Margaret returned to broadcast journalism and currently hosts a one-hour lifestyle show, New Day Northwest, on KING-TV Seattle.

THOR TYSON photo

Thor* currently spends his time coaching Water Polo for the Roosevelt High School Girls Water Polo team and the youth boys Raincity Polo Team. He has been coaching for over 15 years at the collegiate, high school and club levels in Washington and Oregon. He has received numerous awards as Coach of the Year in high school league play. He is a graduate of the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of Washington. He also holds a second Masters Degree from the University of Washington. Thor has served on numerous boards and grant committees in the Seattle area, including Social Venture Partners, the Social Justice Fund and Groundswell Northwest.

THOR TYSON photo

Mark* brings his robust experience in finance and fiscal policy to the BLFA. He spent much of his career working for the State of Washington including positions in the Office of Financial Management, Office of the State Treasurer, the Housing Finance Commission, and the Legislative Transportation Committee. Mark has served in numerous volunteer capacities including Board Chair of the Washington State Employee’s Credit Union. Mark graduated with a BA in Political Science from Eastern Washington University.

* Indicates founding board member