Mathew Daniel founded the SDM Cancer Relief Fund in memory of his wife, who lost her battle with cancer in 1985. The organization assists poor people in India who are fighting cancer, and Daniel says that the idea to found the organization “formed in my mind like a vision the night my wife was diagnosed with cancer.” Susen Daniel passed away nine months later and Mathew Daniel announced his intention to begin the charity at her memorial service. The fund has become an enduring tribute not only to his wife, but also his daughter, whom he lost to cancer in 2002.
Daniel’s daughter left her 6-year-old child when she lost her life to breast cancer, and Daniel expresses an intimate appreciation for the suffering experienced by families in need of resources. The organization’s first patient, Ayyappan, was an 11-year-old boy from Palghat, India, who suffered from leukemia. Tragically, Ayyapan died before receiving financial aid; however, his mother and disabled father received funds that allowed them to grieve the loss of their son without the added stress of a financial burden.
The Daniel family migrated from India to Southern California in the 1970s, and had the means to afford medical insurance, hospital services, and treatments. After his wife’s death, Daniel reflected on the plight of poor patients in India, having little or no access to hospital beds or medical treatment. The SDM Cancer Relief Fund provided assistance to its first hospital, the Regional Cancer Center in Trivandrum, in 1985. Since then, almost $200,000 has been paid to sponsor beds and provide direct financial aid to cancer patients and their families throughout Kerala.
Funds raised from the event will enable the sponsorship of more beds in four more hospitals over the next 10 years, Daniel says. “No help is small to those who have little or nothing. SDM helps the poorest of the poor,” he says. “Whatever amount they receive from us is a relief to that extent for the family.”n—Jennifer Marshall