Baldwinsville resident Jason Gebhardt became a volunteer with the American Cancer Society shortly after his mom succumbed to a four-year battle with leukemia and lymphoma in 2009. The not-for-profit organization made a great impression on the family when they were first introduced to one of its services in New York City.
After having gone through chemotherapy, radiation, remission and recurrence, Carolyn Gebhardt’s team of physician’s suggested she get a stem cell transplant.
“They were able to find a match within my family,” said Gebhardt, naming Carolyn’s cousin, Debbie Graziano, of Camillus. “The only problem was [my mom] had to go to Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in NYC to have it done,” which would amount to a three-week stay prior to the procedure combined with a three-month stay afterward. “My parents were trying to figure out how they were going to basically move for four to five months from Syracuse to NYC and how they would afford it.”
That’s when the Gebhardts learned of the American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Jerome L. Greene Family Center in New York City, established specifically for out-of-town families like their own. The 60-room “house,” staffed with both paid and volunteer caregivers 24/7, offers private accommodations at no cost for cancer patients being treated in Manhattan.
“My mother was really impacted by the ACS with the Hope Lodge,” Gebhardt said. “She always asked us to always keep [ACS] in mind whenever we were giving to charities or looking to volunteer.”
While living in Rochester, Gebhardt became active with the upstate city’s local Hope Lodge. He recruited more young people to become involved with fundraising and volunteering, and eventually helped set up Roc Hope, a young professionals group for the ACS Hope Lodge Hospitality House. From there, the idea to hold the first Hops for Hope was formed. Held on a Saturday afternoon at Custom Brewcrafters in Honeoye Falls, the event featured a couple bands and a clambake.