Quinceanera for College

Time flies when you are having fun, and I had A LOT of fun over the past week. What did I do? What was so important last week that I completely ignored posting a new blog? In case you do not follow Cancer for College on Facebook , Instagram , or Twitter  you may not have heard that last Friday we hosted our biggest event ever! And it was incredible.

With the help of our ever-awesome spokesman, Will Ferrell, we partnered with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and their charity, Silverlake Conservatory of Music to unleash Will Ferrell & Chad Smith’s Red Hot Benefit Comedy + Music Show & Quinceanera. Such an audaciously-named event was accompanied by a cadre of talented comedians and an all-star lineup of drummers, and you can read a great recap of the actual event on Rolling Stone; today is also the last day you can watch the entire drum-off on Funny Or Die. You do not want to miss the opportunity to see this clash of world-class drummers.


The stars of the quinceanera, Chad Smith & Will Ferrell. || Photo by Andy Keilan

As a new employee of Cancer for College, this was the first time I was involved in the preparation of such a massive event. Backstage, there was not a moment before, during, or for hours after the show that there were not teams of intently focused people running around making sure every detail was perfect. From production experts to volunteers, no hands were idle the entire day, but what surprised me most was that some of those hands belonged to the very people who were performing in front of a packed house later that night. There was no distinction between celebrity and people like me backstage as everyone was equally committed to making the night amazing.

People in the audience that night were treated to a once-in-a-lifetime combination of music and comedy, and we have heard many different “favorite moments.” My favorite moment, though, was one that you could only have seen if you were backstage. It was when I got to see Will Ferrell interacting with one of the Cancer for College recipients who volunteered to help out at the show. This recipient had met Will years before when she first found out that she had won a Cancer for College scholarship, and now they were both working together to ensure that many more cancer survivors would be able to achieve their dream of a college education, and get back to thriving after cancer.

It was a great reminder that amidst the thunderous drumming and raucous laughter (after seeing Will Ferrell don a sparkly, baby blue quinceanera dress) everyone was there to show support for cancer survivors they have not even met yet. Simply buying a ticket, getting involved, and using your gifts is all that is required to make a lasting difference in someone’s life. So, after you are finished watching the drum-off (click here) why not head over to cancerforcollege.org to either make a donation or see how you can get involved in one of our next events. Plus, don’t you want to say you were involved in the event that was somehow just as good as a quinceanera for a couple of old, white guys?

Pro Pic - CircleAbout the author: Mitch Friesen is a childhood cancer survivor, CFC scholarship recipient (2011-2014), and now works for Cancer for College as their Director of Growth & Community. Mitch graduated from Azusa Pacific University with a degree in Business Management and minor in Theology. A lifelong learner and lover of adventure, when Mitch is not catching up with all of the awesome CFC recipients, he can be found enjoying the outdoors with his bombshell of a wife (Abbey), watching/playing soccer, and drinking coffee.


Celebrating Survivors, Desert Smash Style!

Will Ferrell. Kevin Spacey. Stan Wawrinka. Novak Djokovic. Two beloved actors and the world’s top two tennis players. Not to mention cancer survivors and past scholarship recipients — all coming together to support Cancer for College.

Last week, Palm Desert played host to the largest and longest fundraising effort ever for Cancer for College. I’m certain that I can speak on behalf of everyone at the charity when I say that The Desert Showdown was the most amazing, multi-event fundraiser that we’ve ever been a part of, raising nearly $1 million for our foundation. We are so thankful to everyone involved for making this incredible event a huge success!

The Desert Showdown

Let the showdown begin!
Image credit: Desert Smash Facebook page

Image credit: Desert Smash Facebook page

Desert Smash 2014 077

Gathering with CFC scholarship recipients at La Quinta’s center court

Here’s a quick recap of events:

  • Day One: Speaker’s Forum and live auction event at Bighorn Golf Club with Will Ferrell and CFC Founder Craig Pollard, hosted by David Belasco, Co-Director, Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies at USC Marshall School of Business. Survivor Christine Pechera shares her story.
  • Day Two: The Will Powered Golf Classic, Bighorn Golf Club.  Live auction hosted by Will Ferrell and featuring Kevin Spacey. Survivor and CFC Scholarship recipient Sarah Beth Comfort shares her story. Read more here about the Will Powered Golf Classic.
  • Day Three: 10th Annual Desert Smash featuring a variety of celebrities and tennis professionals for the morning’s Pro-Am and culminating in a showdown between Kevin Spacey and Stan Wawrinka vs. Will Ferrell and Novak Djokovic. More Desert Smash details here. Capped off by a great concert at Agua Caliente featuring Nelly, Redfoo and Boys II Men. Amazing!

Survivors Celebrate and Support the Cause!

Every single event was enhanced by the presence of Cancer for College scholarship recipients. We’d like to recognize and thank our two keynote speakers, Christine Pechera and Sarah Beth Comfort who shared their stories so eloquently.

And to the following recipients, a big thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to travel to the desert and volunteer for our events: Kelly Purcell, Kelli Vigorito, Spencer Paul, Allison Burgos, Agi Whittaker, Danielle Gillespie. Abby Houck, a recipient who we are fortunate to have on staff at Cancer for College. We are always so proud of you!

 Spotlighting Danielle

We want to give a big shout out to recipient Danielle Gillespie (and her sister Erin!) for coming out from Detroit on their own dime to work REALLY hard for us during this marathon event. Danielle, with her spunk and beauty, makes it hard to believe that just five years ago, she was fighting for her life. Danielle was days into her nursing program when she had a seizure, and an MRI revealed a golf-ball sized brain tumor. She went through brain surgery and chemotherapy, and today she is a happy and healthy nurse, wife and mother of two daughters. Her Cancer for College scholarship helped her finish her nursing program. We’ll be spotlighting her later this month.

Check out the Cancer for College and Desert Smash Facebook pages for more great event photos! Click here to watch a great piece on EXTRA!