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For Perry Reed, it all began in elementary school when he befriended the new kid in class. Ryan was sick and bald, and it turned out that he had cancer. The two boys lived just a few houses apart and quickly became close friends. Soon Perry was even going along with Ryan for his chemo treatments. Ryan eventually beat cancer and went into remission. But then at age 13, he developed a brain tumor and passed away.
For a long time, Perry kept his experience with Ryan private. But when he began college at UCLA, he found himself at a freshman activity fair. A girl wearing a sombrero walked up to him and asked, “Do you want to fight cancer?” Perry immediately said yes and signed up.
Perry quickly went from volunteering with the Relay For Life program to becoming a national volunteer. Perry says, “Even after that experience with Ryan, I had never gone searching for it [a way to give back]. But that initial, innocent ‘hey, do you want to fight cancer?’ got me started. Then it was doing the advocating, the education, and the training with the American Cancer Society that really got me sucked in. I really felt the passion that comes with volunteerism.”
I really don’t think I could feel this level of passion volunteering anywhere else.
Global Relay For Life® volunteer, ACS CAN Legislative Ambassador
But the best part for Perry? The people he meets. Perry says, “I’ve had the opportunity to meet a lot of staff, volunteers, and people who have benefited from the American Cancer Society. They live in different states, different countries, have different economic statuses, education, etc. People I never would’ve met otherwise. But it all falls away when you’re volunteering together and connected to a cause. It’s our passion that connects us.”
In addition to his full-time job, Perry is working with the American Cancer Society Cancer Action NetworkSM (ACS CAN) as a legislative ambassador for California. (ACS CAN is the American Cancer Society’s nonprofit, nonpartisan advocacy affiliate.) He’s also a training and development co-lead for the global Relay For Life program, recently traveling to Kenya to train the locals to be more successful with their Relay events. Perry says, “My volunteering with the American Cancer Society actually guided me and helped me discover my career path. It’s really shaped my professional career. I feel like I’ve gotten much more out of my volunteer experience than I could ever give back.”