(This blog acknowledges the incredible dedication, skill and value our volunteers bring to our efforts to advance therapies for childhood cancers with unmet needs)
Early in 2018, within a 7-week timespan, I lost my father, my mother-in-law, and a dear friend who passed away at a young age from breast cancer. These losses rocked me. I questioned what I was doing to make the world a better place, especially for children. My friend was a powerful advocate for children with cancer, even when she was living with her own disease, and had inspired me years earlier to support the fundraising efforts of incredibly dedicated organizations such as Curesearch and The Truth 365. I was inspired by Gabriella Miller from Smashing Walnuts and other brave children who heroically went through treatments, helped create change and lost their battles with cancer. It was unfathomable to me how these children could go through such horror with such bravery. I could not comprehend how difficult it must be for their families. Childhood cancer became my cause.
I knew I had to raise the stakes and help out more. Not just with fundraising for childhood cancer, but by using my skills to help solve problems directly related to the efforts being done to advance childhood cancer research to find more effective treatments. I didn’t know if I could be of any help with solving anything, but I knew one thing for sure, if I did nothing, I would not be any help at all.
My decision coincided with changes in my role and level of involvement in the company I founded, managed, and co-managed for 18 years – Solution Street, a software engineering company in Northern Virginia. By the end of 2019, I decided to take a step back from co-running the company. I was fortunate to have a wonderful business partner who was able to take over and have a company with great people continue to thrive.
Although I still tend to my company in several key areas, I knew with the extra free time I had, I could volunteer more. Thanks to a supportive wife and children who also believed in the cause to eradicate childhood cancer and improve the lives of patients, I wanted to use my extra time to focus on one area. Of course, after many years of being involved, my focus was childhood cancer. Having been extraordinarily fortunate in my life, it was now time to give back.
At the beginning of 2020, I emailed a number of childhood cancer research centers at Universities and Hospitals around the country offering myself as a volunteer, specifically in areas related to software engineering. I received no response from any of these organizations. Undeterred, I reached out to a friend who I met through the childhood cancer community, Andrea Verdone of Infinite Love for Kids Fighting Cancer. Andrea is a relentless, inspiring advocate. She immediately connected me with Dr. Charles Keller at cc-TDI. When Dr. Keller and I spoke we immediately connected. He accepted my offer to help as a volunteer and I am now involved with several projects including machine learning to predict rhabdomyosarcoma subtypes in tissue samples, writing case studies, and others. I am truly honored to be part of this great organization with such an incredible mission, and to work alongside so many dedicated researchers, engineers, families and volunteers striving so hard to bring new therapies to children who desperately need them.