Belleville native Lance LePere was just 2 when his mother was first diagnosed with breast cancer.
He recalled how she used to call her cancer medication — “her beauty pills.”
“Looking back, at that age I was happy to believe that this was true,” he said in an email. “Later on in my teens she did discuss her cancer and surgeries, but never as a negative. She always remained positive and strong and moved forward, determined to live a full life.”
LePere and husband Michael Kors, the famous fashion designer, have donated $750,000 to Memorial Hospital in memory of LePere’s parents, who were both passionate about the hospital. In recognition of this charitable gift, the hospital’s foundation named the breast health center at Memorial the Harold and Dixie LePere Breast Health Center.
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Both Harold and Dixie LePere served on boards at Memorial Hospital. Harold, who went by “Hap,” was a noted architect who helped design Memorial Hospital and served on its Board of Directors; Dixie was a member of Memorial Foundation’s Board of Directors. Harold died in 1996 and Dixie in 2003 after battling breast cancer.
“My parents love for each other was always an inspiration. My mother was loving and extremely supportive to all of her children. She had a wonderful sense of humor balanced with a smart strong personality which she instilled in all of us,” Lance LePere said. “My father was a creative talent, dedicated father and always supportive and loyal to his family and friends.”
He said his parents enjoyed traveling with friends and family, but were “strongly committed to the local Belleville community” and loved spending time with their grandchildren.
Longtime LePere family friend and Memorial Auxiliary volunteer Jan Dorris approached Lance about making a donation.
“Having been best friends with Hap and Dixie for many years, I knew how special Memorial Hospital was to both of them,” Dorris said in a news release. “They were especially happy and pleased with the high quality compassionate care given to Dixie during her 33-yearlong breast cancer fight.”
Lance, 46, and Michael, who live in New York City, have been involved with breast health issues among other philanthropic interests over the years.
“My husband Michael and I have both been very fortunate to have grown up with supportive families and to succeed in a field that we both love,” LePere said. “As we have both been touched closely with breast cancer in our families and friends, this donation is an ideal way to give back on a community level in helping to battle this disease.”
Lance moved to New York at age 17 after graduating from Belleville East High School. He remains close to his three siblings — two of whom still live in the metro-east.
His brother, Scott, resides in O’Fallon and sister, Nicole Sinn, lives in Belleville. His other sister, Michelle Hewer lives in Virginia. Nicole serves on the committee to assist with Memorial Foundation’s fundraiser — Wine, Craft Beer and Chocolate Experience — to support the services provided by the Harold and Dixie LePere Breast Health Center.
“Our family has always been extremely close and embraced our faith,” Nicole said in a news release. “We were raised to be loving, respectful, giving and supportive ... We cannot be more proud of our parents and family.”