June 15, 2018
One of my favorite quotes is from Mahatma Gandhi; “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” I am sure that anyone who works, or has worked, in the non-profit field also believes these words to be true.
I’ve spent the majority of my career in the nonprofit world, and as I leave the Prevent Cancer Foundation® after 15 years, I will remain in that world, becoming Executive Director of an organization providing services to children with cancer and their families.
While I’m excited for this new chapter in my life, it is bittersweet. I leave behind an organization who brought the once very novel idea of prevention to the forefront of cancer research and education.
When the staff suggested I do one last blog post, I asked why—what would I write about? Their answer: “Your work over the last 15 years.” While I’m never at a loss for words (though I sometimes should be!), this response left me wordless. Not because I couldn’t think of anything I’ve done worth sharing, but because anything I’ve accomplished has been made possible by others. Many, many others.
It hasn’t taken a village, it’s taken an army. A small, but talented, dedicated and creative army of individuals over the years, who have taken some of the craziest ideas and made them a reality. One only need look at the viral Check Your Mate campaign to know that’s true. An army who answered the question of how to reach more people with prevention and early detection education and screenings by developing a community grants program that now funds communities across the country and around the world, providing free education and/or cancer screening programs to the underserved. And who can forget the Prevent Cancer Foundation Super Colon®? It’s not every day you get to walk through a 20-foot inflatable colon— or in one memorable instance, see one flying through the parking lot of the Houston Astro’s spring training camp due to high winds. Then there’s the Think About the Link® campaign, educating the general public about the link between cancer and certain viruses, led by celebrities Marissa Jaret Winokur and Alejandro Escovedo. And of course the Foundation’s research grants, which continue funding new and promising work in cancer prevention and early detection. The list goes on and on.
The last 15 years has also been filled with valued partners who made our work possible and became wonderful friends. Partners like Phil Gordon, Rafe Furst and the World Series of Poker, who raised millions of dollars to support the Foundation’s work by asking players to donate just one percent of their winnings. Partners like the incredible team at Games Done Quick and their Awesome Games Done Quick marathon and community—in the last 8 years they’ve raised around 8 million dollars to support the Foundation’s work, and enabled the Foundation to expand its reach globally by funding important research projects and community programs. They have also enabled us to award Technical Fellowships to medical professionals in low-resource countries, allowing them to travel to prominent cancer institutions around the world for intensive one-on-one training. And partners like 13 year-old Marissa in New Jersey, who made and sold purple ribbon pins to support cancer research in honor of her mother, who had colon cancer.
A lot happens in 15 years—so much more than can fit in a blog post. Great team members have come and gone, new programs have launched and then ended, and death rates due to cancer have begun to drop. But one thing that has always remained is the Foundation’s commitment to cancer prevention and early detection, and my gratitude for the wonderful team who has surrounded me all these years. Thank you.