Our Story

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The Crescent City Champ

Alvin Charles Copeland Sr., affectionately known as “Big Al” was a restaurateur, entrepreneur, and New Orleans icon. He was recognized for his brilliant business sense, eclectic personality, and as one of the most generous hearts our city has ever known.

Al founded several famous New Orleans Restaurants including Popeyes Famous Fried Chicken, Copeland’s Family of Restaurants, and Diversified Foods and Seasonings, LLC. As an avid offshore powerboat racer and renowned philanthropist, Al Copeland is synonymous with the Big Easy. Al loved New Orleans, and New Orleans loved him right back. 

A Colorful Past

His larger-than-life personality was matched only by his love for the people in his community. Walk into any New Orleans hospital, and nurses will reminisce about how Al would bring Popeyes Chicken to the entire medical staff every time one of his grandchildren was born. Even if Al were sick himself, the nurses who treated him would have chicken waiting for them in the breakroom.

Big Al ran an elaborate secret Santa program at Christmas time to ensure that 1,000 children around New Orleans would “have a real Christmas.” After hand-selecting two gifts and a stuffed stocking for each child, he dedicated an entire floor of Popeyes headquarters to partake in a “wrap-a-thon” to wrap all 3,000 presents. His love for people is embodied today through the legacy he left behind. Kit Wohl, Al’s longtime friend explained, 

“He was a local icon, the stuff of legends, a folk hero. He found success in adversity and good fortune in family. In life, he loved spice and speed.” - Kit Wohl, Award Winning New Orleans author

A Difficult Lesson

In November of 2007, the beloved New Orleanian was diagnosed with a rare form of skin cancer known as Merkel Cell Carcinoma. Throughout his fight against cancer, there were no FDA-approved treatments available for this disease. The lack of resources and treatment options available left Big Al and his family helpless amidst his diagnosis.

Through the uncertainty and heartbreak they experienced, the Copeland family was exposed to the realities of cancer and the ensuing hardships that it brings. Immediately, they recognized they had an opportunity to fill a deep need within the state of Louisiana.

Though Al lost his battle to Merkel Cell Carcinoma in March of 2008, his life and legacy live on through the mission of the Al Copeland Foundation.

A Bright Future

Since its inception, the Al Copeland Foundation has partnered with the LSU Health Sciences Center to support and expand an innovative, robust cancer program benefiting cancer patients of Louisiana and the Gulf State Region. This partnership leverages donations from across our state to pursue clinical research, trials, cancer prevention techniques, outreach initiatives, and ultimately to find a cure, emphasizing access to treatment programs for underprivileged individuals.

Through generous donations and the tireless work of researchers at the LSU Health Sciences Center, the Al Copeland Foundation now offers 76 lifesaving treatments at the Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center for cancers of the breast, kidney, and bladder, and leukemia. As we continue to pioneer a cure for cancer, more treatments will be available in the future.

The goal behind everything we do at the Al Copeland Foundation stems from the desire to help cancer patients find lasting health. Though science is our mechanism, hope is our result.

A Path to Fulfill a Wish, to Save Lives, and End Cancer

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The Al Copeland Foundation (ACF) is created in 2008, and partners with The University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) to support their research in identifying Merkel Cell Carcinoma (MCC).

Path to a Cure

The Copeland/LSUHSC partnership for Cancer Immunotherapy is started to bring MCC research home to Louisiana. In 2011, establishes the $1 Million Endowed Chair to ensure research dedication for MCC cure.

Patient Investment

With support from our donors, ACF invests to help the LSUHSC open the first Gulf State regional clinic for HIV/AIDS, establish a clinical trial for a lung cancer vaccine, publish over 20 scientific journal reports, and purchase three state-of-the-art machines that analyze tumors.

Groundbreaking Info

In 2016, LSUHSC becomes one of nine sites nationwide to offer immunotherapy trials that treat MCC. A local patient receives the treatment and remains cancer-free today. In 2018, the FDA approves the immunotherapy treatment to help patients fight MCC across the country.

A Promise Delivered

Two more patients are declared cancer-free. Seventy-six more groundbreaking clinical trials are brought across the state of Louisiana, connecting 1960 patients to potential lifesaving treatment.

Better Today

In 2021, the Al Copeland Foundation expands its partnership with LSUHSC to invest in innovative research and treatment. The network’s first goal is to expand access to clinical trials.

Brighter Tomorrow

Future initiatives aim to increase patient access and awareness, provide educational resources for cancer awareness, and pursue prevention and early detection campaigns.

Hopeful Future

ACF is grateful for the support from donors like you, continuing our mission to end all cancers and bring more immunotherapy treatments to LA and beyond.

Help Us Save Lives & End Cancer!

Because of your support we’ve been able to continue pushing the boundaries on cancer research. Each time you make a donation, you’re getting us closer to fulfilling our initiatives, and ending cancer.