Aren’t you Robert Duvall? St. Louis attorney Allen Allred gets asked that question a lot. Put their pictures side-by-side; and yes, they could be brothers! Some people, including comedian Jay Leno, believe the resemblance is uncanny. “The first time Jay Leno came to the Fox, he was standing with me and Bob Costas in the lobby,” Allred recalls. “So here I am, between Leno and Costas, and Leno looks at me and says to Costas, Isn’t this the guy who was Tom in The Godfather?” But their looks are probably where the similarities end.
Allred is well-known in legal circles as a longtime partner at Thompson Coburn, but what you may not know about him is that for the past 25 years, he’s spent a lot of his time helping raise money for the treatment of kids with cancer. He is the unofficial founding father and major force behind the annual Bob Costas benefit gala, and has played a big role in the establishment of the Bob Costas Cancer Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. The way Allred tells the story is that he just happened to run into Costas at Busch Stadium when the famed broadcaster was doing play-by-play of a Cardinals game for NBC back in the early ‘80s. The relationship started pretty casually when Allred asked Costas if he would like to get involved to help raise money for Cardinal Glennon. The answer was yes. “Then, about a year later, I asked Bob if we could do an event and put his name on it, he agreed. Our first event was at the Adams Mark. Ten years later, we moved to the Fox, and Bob got Jay Leno and the great Tony Bennett to headline,” Allred says. “Fifteen years later, we’re still at the Fox; and this April, we’ll celebrate our 25th event.”
In that time, Allred and Costas have brought some of the biggest names in show business to St. Louis for the fundraisers. In addition to Leno and Bennett, the list includes Jerry Seinfeld, Billy Crystal, Ray Charles, Harry Belafonte and Paul Simon, just to name a few. A strong friendship emerged throught the years, as Allred and Costas have teamed up to help raise more than $15 million for the hospital.
Allred says a very memorable moment for both of them came on the night when he surprised Costas with the announcement of the founding of the cancer center. ”Bob didn’t know about it. And I’m confident that if I had gone to him before the announcement and said, Hey Bob, all this money is going to go to the creation of an institution with your name on it, he would have said, Don’t do that,“ Allred explains. “But I remember standing on the dais at the Adams Mark when I announced it, and I saw this international celebrity double-clutched—I could see it in his face that he was so honored to have something like this with his name on it.”
The Bob Costas Cancer Center opened in 1998, and Allred has assembled a team of prominent St. Louisans who keep the money coming in. They twist a lot of arms, open a lot of wallets and land big donations, including a half-a-million dollars from Centene to be the five-year title sponsor of the event. “We are beggars, B-E-G-G-A-R-S. We don’t need any more big names on the committee, we need people who are willing to beg to help the kids—and that’s what it’s all about.“
Somehow, Allred also finds time to be a lawyer. He’s a top litigator for Thompson Coburn and is considered one of the best attorneys in America who specialize in health care and hospital issues. Allred served as a captain in the Marine Corps during the Vietnam War and is the founder of the Missouri Friends of Injured Marines, which helps support wounded and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. “It’s a way to give back for the blessings I’ve had.” Allred says. “I have three healthy kids who have been successful, and in my own life and career, the Good Lord has blessed me, so I just hope I can facilitate some blessings for others who aren’t so fortunate.”
And the work Allred and others are doing is obviously saving lives. He loves to tell the story of a former Glennon patient who survived cancer, and is now all grown up and working for Oprah Winfrey in Chicago. At last year’s benefit, she came onto the Fox stage to personally thank Costas and the supporters of the cancer center. “We had pictures of her as a child struggling through treatment; but there she was on stage with Bob, a successful and beautiful woman, and I thought, this is an example of how miracles happen every day at the Bob Costas Cancer Center—because of his efforts and the efforts of our committee. Without them, we wouldn’t have these miracles.” I’m sure even Robert Duvall couldn’t have said it any better.