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Student on a mission

After raising more than $75,000 for St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation, Anthony Pacella now hopes to make an ailing child’s wish come true
October 28, 2015
By Simona Rabinovitch

A thumbs-up might seem like the smallest of gestures. But for Anthony Pacella, a student in Concordia’s John Molson School of Business, one special thumbs-up meant the world.

In 2010, when Pacella was 15, his 51-year old mother was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer even though she never smoked a day in her life. Pacella and his family were shocked.

Anthony Pacella with his late mother, Mary Melillo Pacella Anthony Pacella with his late mother, Mary Melillo Pacella | Photos courtesy Anthony Pacella

“When something like that happens, sometimes you want to make some sort of connection” he says. “But there was no reason.”

Pacella channelled his feelings towards a new purpose, doing something positive for his mother and helping others. He envisioned a one-off cancer fundraising event that he hoped his mom — who was receiving treatment at Montreal’s St. Mary’s Hospital — would be able to attend.

“When someone goes through such a disease, you see them suffer but there’s nothing you can do to help them,” he says. “I wanted to run an event where she could forget about her illness, forget about her pain for one night.”

So the teenager founded the StrikeOut Cancer fund, and a few months later he helped organized a bowlathon that raised $21,000.

Regrettably, Mary Melillo Pacella passed away on January 6, 2011, before her son’s event. Yet he did tell her about his fundraising and advocacy efforts and, he recalls, she gave him a sign of support, love and pride that he holds close to his heart.

Anthony Pacella John Molson School of Business student Anthony Pacella founded StrikeOut Cancer. The organization holds an annual bowlathon and will host its first gala with Make-A-Wish Quebec on November 7.

“Before she passed away, I wrote her a letter about all I had done with this initiative and explained that it was something I would continue later on. She wasn’t able to talk, so she gave me the thumbs-up. That’s something that’s kept me going until now.”

The bowlathon is now held annually — the fourth one was in May — and has raised more than $75,000 for St. Mary’s Hospital Foundation.

New endeavour

Pacella’s mission keeps growing. On November 7, StrikeOut Cancer will host its first gala fundraiser, for Make-A-Wish Quebec.

He hopes the gala — which features local comedian Joey Elias — will raise $10,000 to make a wish come true for a child named Kirah, who suffers from lymphoma. “If everything goes well, the child will actually attend the event with her family — so it’s different,” Pacella explains.

“When you give your money to foundations to buy equipment, you don’t necessarily see the immediate result, which is why I wanted to partner with Make-A-Wish Quebec so donors could see the difference, see the smile on the child’s face from making their wish come true,” he says.

“It’s going to be a fun night to raise money for a good cause.”

Pacella aims to develop StrikeOut Cancer into a non-profit organization and also assist families who might not have the means for certain treatments.

“For example, my mom took chemo pills and we were very grateful to have insurance. But other families may not have the means to get them,” he says.

“I basically want to live the rest of my life trying to help people. Something happened to me and I want to make something good out of it, and show that anyone at any age can do something and create an initiative,” Pacella says.

“At 15 years old, look what I was able to achieve. The sky really is the limit.”


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