In 2018, Jaryd Flank received the devastating news that his grandfather “Pappy Flank” was diagnosed with stomach cancer and given only a few months left to live. That November, he raised over $3,600 for the Cancer Research Institute (CRI), and this year, in honor of Stomach Cancer Awareness Month, he is fundraising once again.
But that's not all. At each fundraising milestone, Jaryd commits to a specific challenge in hopes to generate extra support, whether it is a physical test or volunteering in his community. He's no stranger to a challenge, competing in the 2019 American Ninja Warrior Baltimore Qualifiers.
We spoke to Jaryd about the impact cancer has made on his life, the dynamics of fundraising, and the important of giving back.
What is your personal connection to cancer?
Sadly, cancer is a disease that almost everyone has a personal connection with. Throughout my life, my grandmother and both grandfathers have been diagnosed with various forms of cancer. In September 2018, my grandfather, who I called “Pappy,” was rapidly losing weight and went in for a routine surgery to insert a feeding tube. As we sat with him, the doctor came in with news that would change all of our lives. They had found cancer in my grandfather’s stomach and told him that he would only have three months to live. My family has always been really close. I worked for my grandfather’s tree service the previous nine summers. He has taught me so many life lessons. I took this news to heart and started drinking to cope with my problems.
I decided to fight back in November 2018 and paired with the Cancer Research Institute for the first time. After raising over $3,600 throughout the month of November, my grandfather passed in late December in his home surrounded by my entire family.
This is your second time fundraising for the Cancer Research Institute, can you share what made you decide CRI the first and second time in a row?
On November 1, 2018, I decided to do some research into what non-profit organizations I could support. When I found the Cancer Research Institute, it seemed like a perfect match. Majoring in Environmental Science and Public Health, I have always been interested in and realized the importance of research. Obviously I admire any organization that is dedicated to fighting cancer and improving the lives of those affected by it, but I love that the CRI’s goal is to make a future immune to cancer. In the year since I began my fundraiser, they have continued to reach out throughout the year with their appreciation. I plan on fundraising and helping the Cancer Research Institute in any way possible for the foreseeable future.
Why is it important to you to give back?
Growing up, my family didn’t have a lot of money. Despite this, my mom and dad always put my brother, sister, and me first. There were very few occasions where we asked for something and our parents couldn’t give it to us. I will always be forever grateful for what they sacrificed for us. They instilled the value of generosity in me and my siblings, and I have always tried to do what I can to help those less fortunate. Not only has my family ingrained the value of generosity to me, so has my community. I grew up in a very small town in Eastern Pennsylvania called Wilson Area. Throughout my life, my community has always been so supportive of me. This support and camaraderie has made me feel like I can achieve anything. I want everyone to have the opportunity to feel supported like I do, and I feel like I can help achieve that through giving back to the community.
The Flank Family.
What advice would you share with people who wish to host a successful fundraiser?
There are many different ways to host a successful fundraiser. The most important aspect of a fundraiser is making sure you are passionate for the cause. This passion will allow you to push through whatever obstacles you face throughout the process. Cancer is a disease that has affected me along with many others. It has become a life goal to contribute to the fight in any way possible. Not only am I passionate about what I am fundraising for, but passion helped fuel how I fundraise.
As a high school and college runner, I decided to run a mile for every $100 raised for CRI with the goal to run a marathon last year. We crushed our goal and I ran my first marathon along with some of my friends a week later. This leads me to my next piece of advice: if you want to be successful in your fundraiser, you cannot do it alone. Reach out to as many people as possible for help. Throughout my two years of fundraising I’ve reached out to organizations, schools, and so many friends and family. With their help, my fundraiser has been shared over 150 times on multiple forms of social media, reaching communities across the country, and raising nearly $5,000 to date. My fundraisers would have fallen flat without all the help I’ve received, and I want to thank my community, friends, and family for all the work they’ve put in to make this successful.
Support Jaryd Flank’s Fundraiser #Volunteer4PappyFlank
Photos courtesy of Jaryd Flank.