When Ken Farrar received several hundred thousand shares of stock in a buyout from his partners in an e-commerce Web site not long ago, he and his wife, Judy, a longtime nurse at UC Davis Medical Center, wanted to share their good fortune.
"We were sitting around the dinner table when Judy suggested the idea that we could make a donation to support cancer research at UC Davis," Ken recalled.
That casual conversation led to a $75,000 gift to the South Placer UC Davis Breast Cancer Endowment, a grassroots group that has pledged to establish the university's first endowment in breast cancer research.
With the Farrars' donation, the South Placer Breast Cancer Endowment has raised nearly $300,000 toward its goal of $1.5 million.
Ralph deVere White, director of UC Davis Cancer Center, called the gift from the Farrars "a tremendously generous contribution."
"They asked me what they could do to make the very most of their donation, and I suggested the South Placer effort," he said. "I knew Ken and Judy's donation would make a huge impact, that many other people would recognize their generosity and be inspired by it."
Carol Garcia, a breast cancer survivor who established the South Placer Endowment with eight other area residents whose lives have been touched by cancer, said members of the organization were "blown away" by the Farrars' generosity.
The Farrars' check came as a complete surprise to Garcia, a senior vice president at Granite Community Bank in Roseville. The check was presented to her Oct. 12 at a fundraiser at Austin's Steakhouse at Thunder Valley Casino in Lincoln.
"They kept everything a secret from me," Garcia said. "You should have seen my face – I was in shock when Judy handed me the check. I was just so surprised and grateful that there are people like this who are willing to assist in fundraising for breast cancer research."
As high school classmates in Fontana, Calif., in the 1970s, Judy and Ken socialized with the same group of friends, but after graduation went their separate ways.
Judy became a nurse in 1981, working at various hospitals before accepting a position as nurse at UC Davis Medical Center. She put down roots in Sacramento, where she bought a house and lived with her two dogs for 13 years as a self-described "confirmed bachelorette."
Ken was living in the Bay Area during those same years, working long hours managing his Internet ventures.
When a mutual friend from high school suggested the two start dating in 1997, it wasn't long before an old friendship was rekindled. Today the couple has a five-year-old daughter, Helen, and a comfortable home in Vacaville.
"We really didn't seriously consider donating the money to any other organization," Judy said. "We wanted our money to stay in the local area, and I knew we would see the results of our donation, because every day I see the tremendous strides being made at the Cancer Center. I was just happy we were in a position to donate, and that it's going to something important."
"I hope more people donate," Ken said. "And with some luck, we hope to make another donation in the future."