Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center has renamed its Commack facility after the late grandmother of an entrepreneur who donated $50 million to the Manhattan-based institution.
Now called the MSK Commack Nonna’s Garden Foundation Center, the facility is named for former Long Island resident Mike Repole’s grandmother, or Nonna, who received cancer treatment in a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering. Repole gained national attention earlier this month as co-owner of the winning horse in the 154th Belmont Stakes, Mo Donegal.
Repole, his wife Maria and their family’s charity, the Nonna’s Garden Foundation, made the donation last year to establish the Nonna’s Garden Foundation Initiative for Cancer Care and Research at Memorial Sloan Kettering.
The initiative funds research on potential new cancer treatments, as well as efforts to improve care and provide financial assistance to patients in need.
The donation “will have such a tremendous impact on so many families worldwide,” said Dr. Diane Reidy, associate deputy physician in chief at Memorial Sloan Kettering’s Regional Care Network. The network includes the 91,000-square-foot Commack facility, which opened 20 years ago this month.
The gift will help pay for “high-risk, high gain” research that can be harder to fund through government grants, Reidy said. It also will support efforts such as helping needy pediatric cancer patients get transportation, she said. Repole “is not only trying to focus on drug development, but also the patient as a whole,” she said. “He was very clear that he wants the community of Long Island to benefit from this.”
The son of Italian immigrants, Repole grew up in Middle Village, Queens and graduated from St. John’s University. He co-founded the brand vitaminwater, which was sold to Coca-Cola in 2007, and BODYARMOR Sports Drink, which announced its sale to Coca-Cola last year. He lived on Long Island for about 14 years, before moving to Florida in 2019, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering.
Repole’s grandmother, known as Nonna, was diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma at age 79, according to Memorial Sloan Kettering. She was treated by Dr. Steven M. Horwitz at the cancer center, where she enrolled in a clinical trial. She lived for 15 years after her diagnosis and died in 2020.
Repole established the Nonna’s Garden Foundation in 2005, the same year his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer.
“Nonna and my parents always taught me to help others,” Repole said in a statement. “We hope to help as many people as we can extend their lives and experience so many special moments with their loved ones just as we were able to do with my Nonna.”