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BC Grad Strives To Take A 'Stand' Against Cancer

Features Editor

Published: Monday, November 18, 2013

Updated: Monday, November 18, 2013 01:11


Photo Courtesy of Bill Ribas

It all started with a second grade class project, a couple of tomatoes, and a coffee can to hold the change. Stacey Bolger, BC ’13, recalled bringing home tomato plants from the class germination project and growing them in his sandbox, soon having too many tomatoes for his own family to eat. After convincing his mother to let him sell them on the side of the road in his hometown of Pittsford, N.Y., it soon grew into a small business as a way to earn some extra cash. With the help of local farmers like Bob Sweeney of Sweeney’s Stand, he was able to start selling the produce of other farmers, learn how to run a business, and help out some of the locals by giving them a convenient option for buying fruits and vegetables. Little did he know that his college-grad self would transform that original stand into a fundraiser for cancer research, now known as The Stand Against Cancer.

“It’s kind of unfortunate that it took something more personal on my end to get involved in something like this, but that’s how things work,” Bolger said. “It takes until you’re afflicted with it personally to really want to get involved sometimes.”

And that personal connection is Bolger’s father, who had beat cancer last fall, but was recently diagnosed with a more invasive form of lymphoma this year. Bolger was in South America—hoping to put his Hispanic Studies minor and economics major to use by exploring the socioeconomic conditions in locations such as Ecuador—when he received the news, cutting his post-grad plans short and causing him to return home to support his family during his father’s treatment.

It was actually Bolger’s father who brought the stand back this fall after Bolger had closed it down two years before entering Boston College. He enjoyed having a hobby, asked his neighbors for help, and was able to see the children next door start their own stand. They donated some of their profits to the University of Rochester Medical Center’s Wilmot Cancer Center, where Bolger’s father is receiving treatment. The kids had to close the stand once school started in September, but Bolger saw this as an opportunity to bring his former stand back to life, by selling pumpkins and donating all proceeds to the Wilmot center.

Bolger’s original goal was to raise between $1,500 and $2,000, but with the help of a webpage with an online donation button, a Facebook page, coverage from local newspapers, and the support of his hometown as well as those from the BC community, the stand has now raised around $8,500. His new goal is to reach $10,000 in order to fund the naming of a pathology research office at Wilmot, and he’s hoping that a bartending event at his local tavern and an auction will get the organization to that goal.

While Bolger has received support, generosity, and outreach from his community, there was an unfortunate incident in which someone stole money from the stand, which runs completely on the honor system. In retrospect, it was only about $60, but it was hard for Bolger to see that happen to a stand that’s supporting a good cause.

“You’re not really robbing it from me—you’re robbing it from a lot of people,” he said. But the incident did allow the stand to gain visibility—local papers did a story on it, spread awareness, and garnered interest from people out of town to come support the stand.

So why has Bolger’s stand been such an effective way to raise money? For one, the stand, which began with a few tomatoes and a plastic kid-size table, has been around for years. “There’s a name, a face, and a personality that goes with it,” he said, noting how he also tries to engage in conversation with the people who stop by his stand and learn about their stories and afflictions with cancer.

“People aren’t just donating money—they’re getting something out of it, which is always an incentive to donate.”

The pumpkins that Bolger sells are the same price—or in some cases, less—than those that are sold at other farms and grocery stores, so the fact that all of the proceeds from The Stand Against Cancer are going to the Wilmot center truly resonates with those who donate.

“The fact that it’s a cancer fundraiser probably helps too, since this day and age almost everyone is affected by cancer, whether directly or indirectly, through a relative or friend, so I think that’s huge,” Bolger added.

One of the most important things that Bolger learned from this process is that it doesn’t take much to get a project like this going, as long as you have the energy, mindset, and goals to see it through. Bolger offered his father’s words of wisdom to explain how he has approached the fundraiser, and how it can be applied going forward.

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