Aspen-based philanthropists win the Unsung Hero Award at ‘An Unforgettable Evening’ gala |

Aspen-based philanthropists win the Unsung Hero Award at ‘An Unforgettable Evening’ gala

Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson and Richard J. Stephenson speaking onstage during "An Unforgettable Evening" run organizations dedicated to fighting cancer.
Phillip Faraone/Getty images

Aspen residents Dr. Stacie Stephenson and Richard Stephenson recently were awarded the Unsung Hero Award for their philanthropic efforts to support cancer research and patient-oriented treatment and care.

On March 16, the Women’s Cancer Research Fund held “An Unforgettable Evening” gala at the Beverly Wilshire, a Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills. The gala awarded and honored individuals for their commitment to fighting cancer, while raising over $2 million for the organization.

“I was so honored to receive the Unsung Hero Award,” said Stacie. “To me, this is an acknowledgment of the work my husband and I have done, with such passion and commitment over decades, to support cancer research.

“Being recognized at this event, in the company of so many influential people, is something I value so much — not for me personally, but because of how it can further raise awareness for other philanthropic opportunities,” she said.  

In 1988, Richard founded and chaired the Cancer Treatment Centers of America after his mother passed away from cancer.

The Stephensons have seen first-hand how devastating cancer can be to patients and their loved ones.

“On a personal note, cancer is the reason my twin toddlers will never meet their grandmother, and I know of countless other families that have been torn apart by cancer,” said Stacie.

Through the centers, Richard guided the organization and five hospitals across the country for nearly 35 years before it was acquired by City of Hope in 2022.

According to his website: “Following his mother’s death from cancer, and the painful reality of her lack of hope-fulfilling options, treatment, and care, Mr. Stephenson made a promise to change the face of cancer care: ‘I never wanted to see another cancer patient suffer the agony of living without hope.'”

In addition, Richard founded the Gateway for Cancer Research, a non-profit organization that has raised over $80 million to fund more than 150 clinical trials around the world. This organization spends 99 cents out of every dollar received from public donors to fund these trials, according to the website.

Stacie served as vice chair of the organization for nearly a decade. She also served as the chair of functional medicine at CTCA for 15 years, working to make cancer care more personalized and augmented with conventional treatment, natural medicine, and lifestyle support.

“Cancer research, and all research honestly, often goes on in a silo, which can waste resources and precious time,” she said. “I’ve made it one of my areas of focus to create strategic partnerships nationally and internationally, so every donor dollar is stronger, and research trials don’t get repeated.”

The Stephensons have been part-time residents of Aspen for 15 years, splitting their time in Arizona. Richard’s ties to the Pitkin County go back three decades, when he was one of the original developers of Snowmass Village.

The two met in Colorado, bonding in part over a lifelong love for the Rocky Mountains.

“I don’t know the actual numbers, but I feel like there are more sunny days in Aspen than anywhere else, including Arizona,” said Stacie. “Sun, sun, sun, and all that great vitamin D, makes Aspen my happy place.”

Years ago, she closed her small private practice to become the chair of functional medicine for CTCA. Her goal was to try to change the health-care system from the inside out from a position of more influence, she said.

She now focuses solely on philanthropy, continuing her work with Gateway for Cancer Research and other organizations, including the Women’s Cancer Research Fund.

“I’m so appreciative that these efforts are being recognized — especially, it’s good for the cause, to raise awareness of the need for cancer research support,” she said about winning the Unsung Hero award.

Coming up April 1, the Stephensons will chair the “Celebrity Fight Night,” an event for the Gateway for Cancer Research. In 2018, they were awarded the Celebrity Fight Night Foundation’s National Humanitarian Award.

Before their start in philanthropy, Stacie was a chiropractic doctor and certified nutritionist, and Richard was a global merchant banker.

Recently, she founded her own company, Vibrant, which seeks to disseminate reliable and foundational health information to women.

“Although my Vibrant initiative isn’t specifically about cancer, it is about how to take your health into your own hands, advocate for your own needs, and be preventive,” she said. “It is my hope that this information can help and inspire women to feel empowered in caring for themselves physically, emotionally, and socially, and that this can benefit women’s health in all circles and at all levels.”

Stacie said she believes that with great dedication and support, the battle against cancer can be won.

“Cancer care absolutely must be individualized and patient-centered, and fortunately, we are moving in that direction,” she said. “I do believe that with continued research and progress in personalized medicine, underlined by aggressive philanthropic support, we will eventually beat cancer.”

Dr. Stacie Stephenson and Richard Stephenson won the Unsung Hero Award at “An Unforgettable Evening” at Beverly Wilshire, A Four Seasons Hotel on March 16 in Beverly Hills, California.
Getty Images/Stefanie Keenan