New York City Volunteers Creating a World With More Birthdays



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National Volunteer Week is April 15 to April 21st


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In celebration of the 40th annual National Volunteer Week (April 15 to April 21), the American Cancer Society recognizes and salutes the efforts of its more than three million volunteers nationwide. You've helped make a difference for people facing cancer since 1913. Many volunteers in New York City contribute to helping people stay well and get well, to finding cures and fighting back against cancer through a variety of roles, efforts and American Cancer Society programs. Here are just a few New York City-based volunteers who are impacting the lives of people facing cancer.

Family of volunteers - Mark, Graceann, Chirsta, Matthew & Stephanie Bramonte

Bramonte Family PhotoEvery member of the Brooklyn-based Bramonte family is dedicated to volunteering with the American Cancer Society and for a very good reason. Mark Bramonte survived the World Trade Center attack in 2001 and two weeks later was diagnosed with an incurable form of leukemia called CLL. Nearly eight years later as his health was fading, the FDA approved a drug called Rituxan for treatment of CLL. Mark immediately began of form of chemotherapy incorporating the new drug - which was originally discovered by an American Cancer Society professor – and the formula worked. In a twist of fate, he received his last dose of lifesaving chemo at Memorial Sloan Kettering the same day Captain Sullenberger landed Flight 1549 in the Hudson River. So his cancer journey began with a tragic NYC event, 9/11, and ended with a miraculous NYC event, the Miracle on the Hudson.

As a result of Mark's cancer journey, his whole family is actively involved in the American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life. Mark’s wife Graceann is the Survivor Chair for the Bay Ridge Relay For Life, coordinating all activities for cancer survivors on the day of the event. Chirsta, the oldest daughter, sits on the Relay For Life Committee at University of Delaware and volunteers with the Bay Ridge Relay For Life once summer starts. Stephanie, the middle child, sits on the Relay For Life Committee at Manhattan College, but also helps out with the Bay Ridge Relay For Life come summer. Matthew, their youngest, goes to Xavarian High School, he now sits on the Bay Ridge Relay For Life Committee. And Mark is very actively engaged and this year he is really trying to expand Relay in the District Schools.

Young volunteer couple - Kathy Smith & Chris Vellios

Kathy and Chris volunteer photoKathy and Chris are a 21-year-old couple who are taking on the huge responsibility of creating a brand new Relay For Life event in their Brooklyn neighborhood, Bergen Beach. Each has lost a parent to cancer. Chris’s mom was diagnosed with brain cancer in 1998 and was offered an experimental drug treatment, but her insurance denied the claim. She took the case all the way to the Supreme Court (Vellios vs. IPRO) and won. The treatment helped for years, but she sadly passed away this past January. Kathy also lost her father to cancer when she was just 6 years old.

The pair was inspired by the Relay For Life event at their college, Baruch, and decided to bring the event to their own community. They are spearheading all efforts related to the creation of this event, from logistics to volunteer outreach to event promotion.  

Indomitable volunteer – Mickey Scherl

Mickey Scherl volunteer photoAt the age of 77, Mickey has battled (and beaten) cancer seven times, including breast cancer, ovarian cancer and skin cancer. She recently completed chemotherapy for her most recent diagnosis and has been officially declared cancer free. Mickey has been actively involved with the American Cancer Society since 1993 and has been a Reach To Recovery volunteer since 2001.

As a Reach To Recovery volunteer, Mickey is paired with local women who have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer. Through weekly phone calls, she gives them each the opportunity to express their feelings, talk about their fears, and ask questions of someone who has been in their shoes. Currently Mickey works with 10 women at our Hope Lodge New York City. She is also on the Board of Advisors for our Manhattan American Cancer Society office and is an ACS CAN legislative advisor.

Sweet volunteer – Pilar L. De Guzman

Pilar volunteer photoOriginally from the Philippines, Pilar left her job as a translator for the United Nations after 20 years to fulfill her true dream of opening a bakery. She rented a kitchen in Long Island City through a city-sponsored program called Entrepreneurial Space, and subsequently founded Bonne Fete Baking.  It has been hugely successful. Pilar now lends her baking talents to charity: every Wednesday she brings treats to volunteers, cancer patients and caregivers staying at the American Cancer Society's Hope Lodge for a weekly gathering called Tea Time.

Hope Lodge is a 60-room lodging facility in Herald Square where cancer patients who live out of town but require treatment in New York City can stay free of charge. You can see some of Pilar's work on Facebook by searching for "Bonne Fette Baking".


Additional Reading:
Volunteer for the American Cancer Society
Diana Diaz: A Volunteer Story
About National Volunteer Week


About the American Cancer Society
The American Cancer Society combines an unyielding passion with nearly a century of experience to save lives and end suffering from cancer. As a global grassroots force of more than three million volunteers, we fight for every birthday threatened by every cancer in every community. We save lives by helping people stay well by preventing cancer or detecting it early; helping people get well by being there for them during and after a cancer diagnosis; by finding cures through investment in groundbreaking discovery; and by fighting back by rallying lawmakers to pass laws to defeat cancer and by rallying communities worldwide to join the fight. As the nation’s largest non-governmental investor in cancer research, contributing more than $3.4 billion, we turn what we know about cancer into what we do. As a result, more than 11 million people in America who have had cancer and countless more who have avoided it will be celebrating birthdays this year. To learn more about us or to get help, call us any time, day or night, at 1-800-227-2345 or visit

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