Fighting against cancer

Categories: Donor Stories

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The Klein Family Foundation supports educational and patient care programs at Bridgeport Hospital.

2004 was set to be a great year for John and Carla Klein.  Both of their children, Kristen and Eric, were about to get married. But that June, they were stunned when the fun, loving and courteous patriarch, John, received a diagnosis of stage 2 esophageal cancer.

“We were all shocked. It was a very aggressive form of cancer, but he would not let it get him down. We were so hopeful,” said Carla, his high school sweetheart and wife of 37 years.

John fought the disease for three-and-a-half years, enduring three surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  He continued his work as president and CEO of People’s  United Bank in Bridgeport, a company at which he worked for 37 years. He also served as chair of Bridgeport Hospital’s board of directors.

“He was dealing with a life-threatening illness and he was still hosting meetings with hundreds of employees,” said Kristen. “I was always so amazed that he would do so many things and not be fazed by it.”

Carla knew philanthropy was important to John. He had instilled the importance of giving back to the community in his children when they were young.

So after Carla lost her lifelong companion to cancer in January 2008 at the age of 58, she and her children started the Klein Family Foundation. The foundation supports a variety of causes that were important to John, such as education, veterans, cancer research, and the hospitals that cared for him throughout his life.

The Klein Family Foundation gave Bridgeport Hospital a grant to help raise awareness about esophageal cancer, its prevention, early diagnosis and treatment. The grant gives financial assistance to patients at risk for esophageal cancer for care that they might have not been able to afford otherwise.

The Kleins also sponsor the annual John A. Klein Memorial Lecture at Bridgeport Hospital, to bring the latest scientific and clinical information on diseases of the esophagus to caregivers at the hospital and in the community. More recently, the family made a gift to bring music therapy to cancer patients at Park Avenue Medical Center in Trumbull.

“My dad was someone who stressed the importance of community and doing what you could to better it, whether
it be the town in which you lived, your workplace, your family, or some other concept of community,” recalled Eric.  “I am happy to say that the foundation has and will continue to honor my dad in its support of causes that give back to the community in very real and meaningful ways.”

“I think John would have been pleased to know that his name, his memory and the things he did to support the community continue,” said Carla. “It has been wonderful to touch so many people and make a positive impact. I think he would be tremendously proud of what we are doing.”

Alison and Eric Klein, Carla Klein, Charles and Kristen Chiodo
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