Letter from Our Chief Philanthropic Officer

Mitch Stoller

Dear Friend of the AACR,

“Paying it forward” simply put, means repaying a kindness you received with a good deed to someone else.

When I think about paying it forward, I am inspired by the spirit and grace of my friend, U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Gary Steele, who is one of the newest additions to the AACR Foundation Board of Trustees.

Gary has deeply instilled values of service, taught by his parents, that he has applied throughout his life—including during his time as a cadet at West Point, where he was the first African American varsity football player, and throughout his 23-years of service in the U.S. Army. He also demonstrated these values when he decided to pay it forward by participating in clinical trials after he was diagnosed first with prostate cancer and several years later with multiple myeloma.

After a series of treatments to stop his prostate cancer failed, Gary was presented with the option to enroll in a clinical trial. Upon learning what the clinical trial entailed, he enrolled not only for himself, but also because his decision to participate could potentially help others facing a similar diagnosis in the future—including his two sons. Gary knew this decision was much bigger than just him. He wanted to pay it forward. The clinical trial has controlled Gary’s prostate cancer, and there has been no sign of the disease since 2015.

U.S. Army Colonel (ret.) Gary Steele

In 2017, paying it forward came full circle for Gary when he was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. A close family friend, who ultimately died from the disease, participated in a clinical trial for lenalidomide (Revlimid) which has become part of the standard of care for patients with the disease today. This was not lost on Gary, whose myeloma is being managed by the same therapeutic. Gary knows that he is benefitting from the clinical trial his friend participated in, and what she did to pay it forward, so that he and others could have better outcomes.

Many of us are fortunate enough to have someone like Gary in our lives. They can be someone you interact with daily, or a stranger who pays for your coffee. They can be a cancer researcher or an AACR donor. Those who pay it forward know that we go further collectively than we do individually. I am inspired by these individuals and know that because of them, there is so much hope for the future. Many of the stories featured in this Philanthropy Brief focus on those who are paying it forward, and the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Thank you for your continued support of our mission—and for being a champion of the AACR.

Best regards,
Mitch Stoller
Chief Philanthropic Officer
AACR Foundation

Return to Philanthropy Brief, Winter 2021 Issue