“When you help others,
you can’t help helping yourself.”

Princeton, Nicky
“Avenue Q”

I’ve always been someone who gives time and energy toward creating a better world.

From helping to organize community initiatives in high school to serving as a board member for a nonprofit group and more than two decades as an American Cancer Society volunteer, I love giving back in an effort to make some aspect of life better for someone — to give hope.

I’ve volunteered in some capacity with the American Cancer Society for nearly 25 years.

My American Cancer Society story begins before I was a teenager. Before I knew of purple shirts and the words “caregiver” or “survivor,” I knew what chemotherapy was.

Before I knew what a luminaria ceremony was or what being an event organizer meant, I knew what it was like watching someone lose hair, lose weight and lose excitement for life.

Before I knew what the American Cancer Society was, I knew I hated cancer. When I was 13, I watched my grandmother die from her battle with cancer. She never saw me drive a car, graduate or get to read my byline on news story.

My grandmother and I never again hung ornaments on a Christmas tree. I never again watched her do crafts. She never walked a survivor lap with me at a Relay For Life event.

I’ve never gotten over what cancer did to her, to me and to my family. But my story doesn’t end with mourning the loss of someone who — to this day — means so much to me.

After her death, I participated in my first American Cancer Society Relay For Life event. Since then, I’ve been to many community-based Relay For Life events. I’ve cried, laughed and shared all sorts of emotions with friends and strangers.

My story started with my maternal grandmother’s diagnosis, but cancer has written many chapters in my American Cancer Society story — from friends and colleagues to former teachers, parents of friends and others I’ve come to know over the years.

Over the years, I’ve served on national, state and regional American Cancer Society groups — helping to drive organization initiatives, organize national and regional conferences, train volunteers and, ultimately, raise necessary funds for research and program services.

But my volunteer life doesn’t end with the American Cancer Society.

I’ve helped in a variety of roles with other local and national organizations (including Susan G. Komen, Autism Speaks, Hair Peace Charities and Cystic Fibrosis Foundation).

I’ve served as a local lead to the Online News Association’s Pittsburgh group, have helped with The Press Club of Western Pennsylvania and served as a board member of Persad, a Pittsburgh-based human service organization whose mission is to improve the well-being of people who identify as LGBTQ.