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John Molson School alum and StrikeOut Cancer founder Anthony Pacella keeps paying it forward in mother’s memory

A whole new goal: to raise $50K for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada
May 9, 2024
By Kay Pettigrew, BA 22

A person with short hair and a beard is smiling and holding a sign that reads: "Signing up to save lives"

How do you cope with the death of a parent?

While many people feel rudderless in the face of such grief, Anthony Pacella, BComm 19, says he found purpose, connection and a meaningful way to mourn his mother through fundraising.

Mary Melillo Pacella, a non-smoker, died of lung cancer when Anthony was 15. As she was dying, he sought a way to lift her spirits while showing his family’s gratitude to Montreal’s St. Mary’s Hospital, where she was being treated.

“I didn't really know how to go about it, but I knew I wanted to do some kind of action,” Pacella recalls. “I wanted to have a fundraising event and have her there, for her to forget about her illness.”

The hope of having his mother attend the event was unfulfilled due to the advancement of her illness. However, the bowlathon he organized and dubbed StrikeOut Cancer was held after her death and raised $21,000.

“Before she passed,” says Pacella, “I wrote her a letter that said, ‘This is something that I want to do. And it’s what I want to do for the rest of my life.’ It was a promise that I made to her.” Pacella has kept his promise — and then some. As the founder of StrikeOut Cancer, he has raised nearly $200,000 through 10 bowlathons and five gala events in support of families affected by the illness. The organization has also partnered with Make-A-Wish Canada, granting nine wishes to children affected by critical illness, sending some to Disneyland and others to meet marine animals in the Bahamas.

Today, the John Molson School of Business alumnus is applying skills from his double major in marketing and management to reach his most ambitious fundraising target yet: raising $50,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society of Canada (LLSC) in just 10 weeks.

Competition for a cause

Pacella was tapped as one of the LLSC’s Visionaries of the Year, a campaign in which philanthropic leaders compete in a 10-week, Canada-wide fundraising drive.

So far, Pacella has lined up two events in service of his goal. The first is a country music-themed night, Rouge Rodeo, on May 10 at Montreal’s Rouge BarBarre and Blend is a wellness event with a Pilates class from NuBarre and smoothies from Tropé Juice and Snackbar, set for Mother’s Day, May 12, at Studio Giovanelli.

Among the children Pacella has supported, several have had blood cancers, such as leukemia, so he says fundraising for the LLSC is a natural fit.

“They're all like my brothers and sisters. They mean the world to me. We build such a bond with these families,” he says.

The LLSC also offers support and training from fundraising experts, which Pacella hopes to leverage toward turning StrikeOut Cancer into a registered non-profit.

“I've been fundraising for the last 13 years, but I've never given myself a big goal to raise a certain amount in a set timeframe. So, I thought it was a test of my limits to see how far I can take it. At the same time, it’s a learning experience, because I'm working with experienced people in the field.”

The value of direct support

Pacella highlights that, in addition to funding cancer research, those who are most affected by cancer deserve direct support. His fundraising events always welcome the families who will benefit from them.

“I know that my $10,000 may not find the cure to cancer, but my $10,000 can make a child's wish come true. And that’s so much more powerful than many people realize,” he says.

Pacella adds that he wants to expand the circle of giving in the form of mentorship to other Concordians.

“A lot of people may want to get into fundraising and want to help out but just don't know how. I would love for them to reach out so I can be a mentor and offer guidance,” he says. “If you had told me at 15 years old that I would raise this much money and grant these wishes, I would never have believed you. But for me, it's not about how much I want to raise. It’s more about the impact that I want to have.

“I just want to inspire people.”

A promotional flyer for the "Rouge Rodeo" event presented by the StrikeOut Cancer Foundation.

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