Community member’s dedication to helping others benefit from breast cancer research

Photo of Natalie Ford standing on her front porch
Natalie Ford outside her family home

Natalie Ford, a resident of Chicago’s South Side, committed herself to helping others, a value she learned at an early age from her mother.

“My mother was a strong woman who led by example,” Ford said. “She always said, ‘Life isn’t about what you can do for yourself; it’s about what you can do to help society.’”

Carrying forward her mother’s legacy, Ford created an endowment fund with a gift of $100,000 to support breast cancer research, education, and training at the University of Chicago. She created the fund in memory of three women close to her who experienced the disease.

Establishing and endowment fund

Ford, who works for a nonprofit organization dedicated to job training and placement, made the gift by building on her inheritance from family members through personal investments and disciplined savings. She notes that, regardless of the amount, gifts made by people like her add up and make a difference.

“The fund I established represents my dedication and care for those who come behind me,” Ford said. “There are a lot of problems in the world today, and while I can’t solve everything, I found a way to focus on what’s most important to me to have the greatest impact. I think if you look beyond yourself, you begin to see the world through a new lens and recognize the importance of helping others.”

Redeeming personal tragedy

The youngest of 10, Ford recounts a happy childhood. Her parents emphasized the importance of education and hard work. They also made time for fun activities like summer camp and trips to Disneyland. Ford earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois, including completing a semester at Harvard. During and after college, she followed her mother’s advice, volunteering to help ex-offenders prepare for the GED and cooking meals for people with AIDS.  

Later in adulthood, however, Ford faced a series of family tragedies and loss.

“Sometimes your life gets interrupted by events that are beyond your control,” Ford said. “Though difficult, these experiences can really help to shape you.”

Honoring a memory

Ford hopes the fund she established will not only honor the memory of the three women it is named for, but will also lead to better treatment options for breast cancer, and ultimately a cure. She also hopes the gift will provide supportive services for patients and their family members.

“When you first hear that a family member has been diagnosed with cancer, it can be isolating, and you can experience a range of emotions — anger, sadness, helplessness,” Ford said. “I’m hoping that this funding can help provide support because not everyone has a nuclear family, not everyone has someone they can call when they’re facing something like this.”

Ford’s personal ties to the University as a community member, as well as its reputation for groundbreaking medical and scientific discovery, including a history of Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine motivated her to make the gift.

Ford feels confident in the University of Chicago’s ability to drive breast cancer research forward.

“If anyone can find a cure for cancer, I think the University of Chicago has the ability to because it attracts some of the brightest minds — people dedicated to finding a cure, who wake up every day ready to go into the laboratory to study the disease and build on prior research,” Ford said.

If you would like to learn more about how you can support breast cancer research at UChicago Medicine, please contact Katy Solomon, Senior Associate Director of Individual Giving, at (773) 702-6640 or

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