Susan G. Komen. In 1978, Nancy Brinker promised her dying sister, Susan Komen of Peoria, Illinois, to find a way to speed up breast cancer research. In 1982, Brinker founded the The Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. The foundation became Susan G. Komen for the Cure in 2007, and is dedicated "to curing breast cancer at every stage -- from the causes to the cures, to the pain and anxiety of every moment in between."
Elizabeth Glaser. The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation was founded in 1988. Its namesake was married to actor/director Paul Michael Glaser. She contracted HIV in 1981 after receiving an HIV-contaminated blood transfusion while giving birth. The virus was passed to her infant daughter, Ariel, through breastfeeding. The Glasers' son, Jake, born in 1984, contracted HIV from his mother in utero. At the 1992 Democratic National Convention, she made a moving and memorable speech (text and audio here). Her foundation strives to prevent pediatric AIDS by, for example, attracting top researchers to the field. She passed away in 1994.
Zachary Fisher. The idea for the Fisher House Foundation came from Pauline Trost, wife of the then-Chief of Naval Operations. She worried where military families would stay while mom or dad was receiving medical care. In early 1990, Russian-American philanthropist Zachary Fisher was taken with the concept. "I'm a builder, I have my own architect, we can do this." The first Fisher House opened the following year. Fisher House donates "comfort homes," built on the grounds of major military and VA medical centers. These homes enable family members to be close to a loved one at the most stressful times - during the hospitalization for an unexpected illness, disease, or injury.
Eric Johnson. Eric "“ the son of Bill and Ann Johnson of Morristown, New Jersey "“ contracted HIV and died of the disease in 1990. He was 32. Eric had the full support of his family -- something that is not always a reality for persons living with HIV/AIDS. Thus, The Eric Johnson House was designed for those people in need of housing, as well as supportive services, who are homeless as a result of, or adjunct to, their HIV/AIDS status.
Pass along your favorite charities and those who inspired them in the comments (or email me). If anyone responds, I'll do a follow-up post with your submissions later this week.