Keith and Brooke Desserich Win NATIONAL Jefferson Award for Public Service!

Rotary Club of Cincinnati’s nominee for the National Jefferson Award, Brooke and Keith Desserich, founders of the Cure Starts Now, received the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Award for benefitting their local communities at the national Jefferson Award Foundation ceremony last evening. The Jefferson Awards Foundation, America’s most prestigious and longest standing organization dedicated to activating and celebrating public service, honored America’s most outstanding philanthropic achievers, including CEO Lauren Bush Lauren, the Kid President team of Robby Novak and Brad Montague, philanthropist Jeff Skoll, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and the Target Corporation during the awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

In March 2015, the Rotary Club of Cincinnati and its media partners, The Cincinnati Enquirer and WKRC-TV- Local 12, hosted the local award ceremony for the Jefferson Award and selected Keith and Brooke as the winner to represent Cincinnati at the national level for their founding of The Cure Starts Now Foundation.

The Cure Starts Now Foundation was founded in 2007 by Brooke and Keith in honor of their daughter Elena, and the many other children who struggle to beat cancer, in particular DIPG (diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma), which is a rare cancer that over 200 children in this country are diagnosed with each year. Since its creation, The Cure Starts Now Cancer Foundation has revolutionized cancer research through its “homerun strategy” that appropriates resources to those types of cancer that experts believe may offer clues to cure cancer, focusing on the science of cancer and developing innovative strategies rather than simply fighting cancer by the numbers. The Cure Starts Now has grown to having chapters in 26 states and 2 countries that have joined the efforts to expand the Foundation’s ability to fund research. To date, the organization has raised more than $5 million to fund research at some of the most prestigious research facilities around the world.

It all started with a girl named Elena Desserich. Diagnosed with DIPG at the age of 5, she inspired thousands of people through her notes of love, hidden around her house and found by her parents after her passing. Brooke and Keith Desserich decided to publish Elena’s notes in a book titled “Notes Left Behind”, which has served as encouragement to many other children and families battling cancer. Today the book has been translated into over 17 languages in countries worldwide, with proceeds going to help fund The Cure Starts Now.

The Cure Starts Now has recently received significant coverage through the ongoing battle of a young college basketball player named Lauren Hill, who passed away on April 10th. Diagnosed with DIPG shortly after her 18th birthday, Lauren’s determined battle over the past year gained worldwide media attention as she fought the disease and raised awareness of the need to find a cure for DIPG by raising over $1.5 million for The Cure Starts Now Foundation.

The Jefferson Award, which is recognized as the Nobel Prize for public service, was created in 1972 by Cincinnati’s own U.S. Senator Robert Taft, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, and Sam Beard and is presented annually to recipients from more than 90 cities in the United States.  The AIPS’s mission is to encourage and honor individuals for their achievements and contributions through public and community service.

The Rotary Club of Cincinnati is the preeminent professional service organization for men and women, supporting children, particularly those with disabilities throughout the Tri-State area through its partnerships with Stepping Stones/Camp Allyn and the Roselawn Condon School. The Rotary Club of Cincinnati also supports the global effort to eradicate polio through its End Polio Now program. For more information about the Rotary Club of Cincinnati, go to