Today begins the Dear Jack Foundation’s sixth annual giving campaign, the 250k Challenge.
I would be remiss not to acknowledge that I write this letter in a time of great uncertainty. This year has been both strange and heartbreaking but it has led me to believe that our cause is more essential than ever and I am eager to stand shoulder to shoulder with all of you and fight for the young adult cancer community.
With each passing year, I am continuously moved by Dear Jack’s ability to touch the lives of so many with the programming we provide. I am equally moved by how those programs aim to improve the quality of life, not just for patients and survivors but for their families and support systems as well. Whether it’s brightening the day of a LifeList patient with the fulfillment of a wish or watching relationships of survivors and their partners transform over the course of a Breathe Now retreat, what we do and what you make possible is changing lives for the better.
This year is a very important one for me and my family. This summer I celebrate 15 years in remission from the Leukemia which nearly claimed my life. The road through my treatment was not an easy one and the world awaiting me in the aftermath was unfamiliar. Still, I am so much more fortunate than many. Reflecting on my experience as this milestone approaches, one my doctor regarded as the closest thing I’d know to a cure, I am reminded of the family, friends, fans, and hospital staff whose tireless support pulled me through. As it relates to frontline medical staff, I commend them today for not only taking on the burden of healing what ails us, comforting us, and guiding us through but also for being the heroes who have fought to protect us in the time of COVID-19. As it relates to my friends, family, and fans, I thank you for the strength you gave me when I needed it most and for inspiring me to start the Dear Jack Foundation. It was your love, guidance, and homespun philanthropy which led me to this mission; a cause which brings me daily joy and purpose.
This is a watershed year for most of us; one that has forced us to ask hard questions, to endure job losses and instability, to teach our kids from home and be students in the digital age, to band together as communities, first to face an unpredictable virus and again to face the plague of systemic racism which tears at the fabric of our systems and society. Never in my 37 years have so many events cascaded into a moment of such gripping turmoil. Still, I believe in the words spoken to me by my Uncle Stuart from his hospital bed before he was claimed by cancer at the age of 38. They were simple words, but I carry them with me, both in my heart and in the tattoo, which honors his life. “Be Positive.” Without these words I would not be writing to you now, 15 years a cancer survivor, nor would I have started this foundation in the hope of shining a light for the patients and survivors we serve.
I will be candid, these months have been hard on our foundation and even harder on our community of DJF program participants but I believe with my whole heart that this moment will be the beginning of a remarkable new chapter, not just for Dear Jack, but for a world waking up to the need for organizations that will stop at nothing to serve their communities through programs, advocacy, and activism.