he Cleveland Clinic intends to return to President Trump’s Palm Beach home for its annual Florida fundraiser, despite calls from some within the hospital’s community to stay away.
“We have not yet signed an agreement, but believe that it is our intent to hold the gala event there in 2018,” clinic spokeswoman Eileen Sheil told STAT Monday.
The Cleveland Clinic has held a fundraiser at the Mar-a-Lago club for the past eight years, but this year’s event came soon after Trump’s January executive order on immigration, which prevented a Cleveland Clinic doctor from returning to the country, prompting protests and calls for the February fundraiser to be moved or canceled.
At the time, Sheil told the Boston Globe that “we will probably consider having it elsewhere in the future.”
Sheil said such consideration took place, and that “in the end, there was a decision to hold it [at Mar-a-Lago] because those organizing it preferred it over other options for a fundraiser.”
Sheil said Monday that about 500 people attended the 2017 event, which raised $1 million for the hospital’s Florida clinic.
“For us, this is about raising important funds … that all go toward supporting our Florida hospital clinical areas of cancer, cardiac care, and transplant,” Sheil said.
Meanwhile, the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, which was also the target of protests for renting out Mar-a-Lago for a fundraising ball this year — which President Trump attended — will not be returning to the property in 2018.
Ellen Berlin, the Boston hospital’s director of media relations, said in an email that the fundraising gala will take place at The Breakers, a different Palm Beach venue.
The Palm Beach Daily News first reported this decision, attributing the move to the desired date not being available at Mar-a-Lago — because it had already been given to the Cleveland Clinic.
Berlin did not comment on that rationale behind the decision, saying that “there were a variety of considerations that led to the decision to hold next year’s event at The Breakers.”
Other medical organizations have also started to get on the Palm Beach social calendar — the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which has held galas at Mar-a-Lago since at least 2012, will be moving to The Breakers in 2018. The Bascom Palmer Eye Institute, an eye hospital affiliated with the University of Miami, has also held Mar-a-Lago events since at least 2015, and will be renting The Breakers this coming year.
When asked, a spokesperson for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society did not say why its event was taking place at a different location. “We have hosted events at Mar-a-Lago and other venues that have been made available to us through our donors and volunteers,” said Andrea Greif, senior director of communications.
This story was updated on May 16 with more comments from the Cleveland Clinic.