Ryan Park, 18, of Honolulu, Hawaii, a senior at Punahou School, formed a nonprofit organization and school club that aim to improve the lives of people with cancer and their families through hospital volunteering, fundraising and personal interaction. When Ryan was a sophomore, he began experiencing back pain while running competitively. His physician ordered tests that revealed a tumor on the left side of his tailbone. “I was paralyzed by fear,” said Ryan. “As I lay on what I thought was my deathbed, I had the opportunity to reflect back on my life.” He recalled that few experiences equaled the joy he felt when helping others. Fortunately, his tumor proved to be benign, but Ryan resolved to make the most of his “second chance at life.”
Early last year, Ryan organized a club called “HOPE” (Helping Oncology Patients Everywhere) at his school, recruited a faculty advisor, completed paperwork for 501(c)(3) status and started recruiting members. After Ryan became an official volunteer at several hospitals, he encouraged and helped club members to become hospital volunteers, as well. He also has organized club activities such as crocheting hats and sweaters for patients, giving monthly music recitals at treatment centers, and sharing food and crafts with young patients. In addition, Ryan’s club has raised more than $3,000 to buy gifts for cancer patients by selling baked goods and specialty T-shirts and tote bags that Ryan designed. His HOPE club, which now has 150 members, also has participated in national cancer-related fundraising drives.