By Nancy Gay
When it comes to philanthropic support and commitment to causes, Tampa restaurant legend and Moffitt Foundation board member Richard Gonzmart has made his mark on many local non-profits – including Moffitt Cancer Center. The cancer center was one of five Bay Area organizations to nominate Gonzmart for the Association of Fundraising Professionals Suncoast Chapter 2019 Philanthropist of the Year award.
A strong work ethic, passion and generosity have been passed down through the Gonzmart family for decades. As the fourth generation to own and operate the famed Columbia restaurant, it’s obvious that Richard Gonzmart inherited these traits from his ancestors. But, something else lurked within the ties that bind - cancer. Gonzmart’s grandfather died from prostate cancer and his father passed from pancreatic cancer. In 2013, Gonzmart carried on this family tradition when doctors diagnosed him with prostate cancer.
Fortunately, Gonzmart’s cancer was caught early thanks to an annual Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) screening. This made him a good candidate for high-dose brachytherapy (HDR), a procedure that involves inserting radioactive implants into the prostate gland to give maximum radiation to cancerous tissues, while limiting exposure to surrounding healthy tissue. It’s less invasive than other forms of treatment and is deemed better than removing the prostate. After undergoing this therapy twice in less than a month, Gonzmart went into remission.
In addition to prostate cancer, HDR is often used to treat cervical, breast and sarcoma cancers, but there is usually a two-month waiting list to receive the treatment. Gonzmart wanted to decrease the wait time and give more patients the opportunity to undergo this procedure. He says, "When I was going through this I didn’t want something radical and the treatment was localized to what I needed and I was given immediate radiation. It’s a miracle.”
To pay it forward, Gonzmart donated $1 million of the $2 million needed to build a Brachytherapy suite at Moffitt Cancer Center. Dr. Daniel Fernandez, chief of Brachytherapy at Moffitt, says this suite will create a more comfortable experience for patients while reducing the treatment time. Plus, it’ll allow more radiation oncologists to be trained on the technology.
Currently, there are about 20 radiation oncologists at Moffitt, but only two
know how to perform brachytherapy. Dr. Fernandez believes the new suite will add to the training experience and present opportunities to advance the treatment.
Gonzmart’s generosity doesn’t end there, an avid runner, he hosts two 5k races a year, with the proceeds going to Moffitt. His next race will take place Nov. 1 in Ybor City. Register at RichardsRunforLife.org.