Donald Distasio to Retire

Don Distasio

EVP Donald Distasio retiring after 41 years of extraordinary service

NEW YORK (June 25, 2013) - Don Distasio, executive vice president of the American Cancer Society and Eastern Division operating officer, has announced his intention to retire from the Society after 41 years of extraordinary service. Don’s career has been punctuated by firsts, inspiring staff and volunteers with his willingness to take risks and embrace change to move our mission forward. 

Don began his career as a field representative in Indiana in 1972, before returning to his roots in New York to join the former Queens Division as executive vice president. Don later became executive vice president of the New York State Division, served as chief operating officer, then chief executive officer of the Eastern Division. Don identified the strengths within six distinctly different Divisions – New York City, Long Island, Queens, New Jersey, New York State, and Westchester – to form the Eastern Division in 1999. At the national level, Don contributed to numerous projects and initiatives, including two of our most successful CEOs Against Cancer® chapters with nearly 50 members who are creating healthy workplaces here and abroad. He has led our nationwide Coaches vs. Cancer® initiative, expanding the program from a few influential members to a winning team of 350 coaches. 

Known for his optimism and enthusiasm, Don launched the first Asian Initiative in Queens, a model that demonstrated how to effectively reach special populations. He built a Relay For Life® program that has never experienced a down year in fundraising, even through the worst years of the great recession. He collaborated with the New York State Department of Health on the very first Breast Health Partnership, which led to more partnerships and many thousands screened. Don was at the forefront when New York City inspired the world with its ban on smoking in workplaces, including restaurants and bars in 2003. 

Six years ago, Don led the way to open a Hope Lodge® facility in the heart of Manhattan and helped secure the largest individual foundation gift in our organization’s history – $10 million from the Jerome L. Greene Foundation. He recently concluded a highly collaborative and successful capital campaign for a new Hope Lodge and Hospitality House in Rochester, which serves both cancer and organ transplant patients. With his leadership, the Eastern Division produced some of the most successful Making Strides Against Breast Cancer® events in the nation, raising nearly $19.5 million last year – a seven percent increase over the previous year. A survivor himself, Don is an ardent supporter of patient navigation and encouraged the expansion and training of cancer resource volunteers on-site in priority hospitals. 


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