At the Cancer Support Community, we interact with many people who are looking to get involved but don’t know how. Volunteering with our affiliates is a great option and our most common answer, but there are a multitude of ways to help. This week, we’re highlighting Cousins for Carol, an organization founded to help people in the Philadelphia area who are affected by cancer. We asked Maria, one of Cousins for Carol’s founders, to tell us their story:
Tell us a little about the work you do.
Cousins for Carol financially assists individuals with cancer and their families. Applications include any bills with which the applicant needs assistance, such as utility, rent, mortgage, etc. and we pay the bills for them.
What made you join together with your family and community to create Cousins for Carol?
Our aunt, Carol Pirolli, passed away a few years ago from metastatic breast cancer. We wanted to do something to honor her because she was very special to all of us, not just her 20 nieces and nephews, but their spouses, her grand- nieces and -nephews, and of course, her brothers, sisters, in-laws, and her father. She spent her career as a nurse, and we felt that this would be a way for her lifelong commitment to caring for others to live on in her name.
Many people looking to get involved wonder how to begin. What made you choose a Fun Run as the place to start?
On Mother’s Day 2013, while my aunt was still alive, my cousins and I wanted to do something special for her. We have several runners in the family, so we thought it would be nice to get together for a morning run in her honor. We started inviting other people and collecting donations to go to Fox Chase Cancer Center in her name, and it grew into something much bigger than we ever anticipated. After the overwhelming support we received that day, it just made sense to carry on the tradition.
What was the toughest part of getting Cousins for Carol off the ground?
I think the two biggest challenges for us have been time management and reaching out to donors other than family members and close friends. Planning our time can be difficult because we all work, and some people have also been pursuing master’s degrees. We are doing this on a 100% volunteer basis so scheduling meetings and planning for events sometimes takes some creativity (thank goodness for Skype!). The other challenge has been growing our donor base to people outside of our immediate social circles. Thankfully, however, we have found that people are very receptive. It’s rare that we ask for a donation when it comes time for the Fun Run and are turned down. Unfortunately, most people have been affected by cancer in some way, so they understand and sympathize with our mission.
What’s been the most rewarding part of your work at Cousins for Carol?
Speaking for myself, it’s the sense of peace that comes from being able to ease someone else’s burden, even for a minute, and knowing that we are doing it in my aunt’s name. Whenever I speak to someone who needs our support and hear the gratitude and relief in their voice, or gather at one of our events and witness the awesome support in the community, it’s like I can feel her with me. That’s what it’s all about for us.
You can donate to Cousins for Carol here.