On February 1, 2019, the new Banyan Ballroom of the JW Marriott Marco Island will glow in brilliant splendor as Phoenix Roofing presents “A Magical Night to Finish the Fight,” the American Cancer Society Imagination Ball.
The gala fundraiser, chaired by Debra Shanahan for the seventh consecutive year, will raise funds in the fight against this deadly disease. This enchanted evening will feature fine food, music, both live and silent auctions, and the presentation of the prestigious Grado Award to Marco Island philanthropists Gary and Anne Landis. Named in honor of the late John Grado and his wife Corrie for their years of service to the American Cancer Society, the award recognizes individuals who have contributed significantly in the fight against cancer.
The Landis family has been making their mark on Marco Island for many years. Gary first came to the island in the 1950s with his parents. He fondly recalls his first visit to the area as a youngster, staying at the Beachcomber Hotel in Naples and making the adventurous journey down to the waters of Goodland and Marco Island to fish. The Landis family knew without a doubt that they had found paradise. Gary’s parents eventually retired and moved to Marco Island, building a lovely home in 1973.
Meanwhile, in the 1960s, Gary was beginning a dynamic career in the field of advertising, a profession that would take him to many different countries. One stop along the way brought him to Mexico where he met a beautiful young lady named Anne. Gary and Anne were married in Mexico City and honeymooned in Jamaica. The days of adventure and travel didn’t end there for this love story, as Gary’s job advancements and a series of corporate mergers led the couple to settle in Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Latin America and back to the United States.
Following this successful career, Gary and Anne retired and moved to Marco Island. They live to this day in the home that Gary’s parents had built. In retirement, Gary acquired the time to enjoy his hobbies of fishing and clay shooting with his dear friend Don Henderson. At the time, Don was quite involved with the Board of the American Cancer Society and encouraged Gary to take on an active role as well. Gary served as Chair of the ACS Volunteer Leadership Board in 2014 and 2015 and along with Don Henderson created the sporting clays event “Shoot Down Kids Cancer.” Gary and Don have been hosting the event for 10 years. Shoot Down Kids Cancer has raised significant funds for the ACS Relay For Life of Marco Island, boosting our Relay to place first in fundraising in the state of Florida for the past two years.
Like so many, Gary and Anne’s lives have been personally touched by cancer. Both of Gary’s parents passed away from the disease. Anne’s sister is currently undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer, and Gary himself is a cancer survivor.
Their dedication and commitment to the American Cancer Society extends to other involvements on the island as well. Gary is currently the Chair of the Island Country Club Charitable Foundation. The foundation holds a golf tournament each year that raises funds for several local charities, including the American Cancer Society.
Their love of life and desire to help others is reflected in their active participation throughout the community. Anne is a hands-on volunteer with the Joy of Giving, an event of the Island Country Club Charitable Foundation that raises money for Christmas gifts for needy children. She speaks fluent Spanish and volunteers with Baby Basics of Collier County, an organization that provides free diapers on a regular basis to low income working families.
Gary and Anne are both active volunteers for Camp Able, an annual retreat at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church that offers various recreational activities for people with disabilities. Anne prefers to describe the campers as individuals with “diverse abilities.” Gary assists with scuba diving and runs a clay target shooting event, giving campers the opportunity to enjoy activities they otherwise would never experience. Anne prepares breakfast for the campers and counselors each day, sometimes feeding up to 180 people.
The couple tends to shun publicity, remaining very humble in their acts of good will. “It’s just great to get involved and make things happen,” says Gary. Those of us who are blessed to know this amazing couple are so grateful for all they do. They inspire us to follow their lead, striving to make our world a better place, filling us with hope for a brighter tomorrow. Imagine a world without cancer.
Please join us for the presentation of the Grado Award on February 1, 2019 at the American Cancer Society Imagination Ball, “A Magical Night to Finish the Fight.” For more information, contact your local American Cancer Society at 239-642-6217 or Sue.Olszak@cancer.org.