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Staff by Day, Cancer Crusader by Night

News Story

Government and Community Relations program coordinator Caitlin Grand takes on a cause that’s near and dear to her heart.

Caitlin Grand, a program coordinator for Pace’s Government and Community Relations Department, has a lot on her plate, but she’s eager to take on more. During the day, she’s working diligently to create connections between Pace and the community-at-large; but during her off-time, she has been able to translate her personal experiences and professional skills into a new position at one of the leading colorectal cancer support and awareness organization, Michael’s Mission. Michael’s Mission was formed as a way to honor and remember Michael Soussa, a young man who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 33.

What sparked your initial interest in these charitable organizations and how did you get involved?

I became involved in a lot of fundraising, education, and advocacy efforts related to colon cancer when my mom was first diagnosed. It was a rewarding and fulfilling way of not only coping with the situation, but giving me a little control over something that was totally out of my control. My work with these organizations has now become a comforting reminder of my mom and her legacy of teaching.

How did you start your advocacy and outreach and how would you suggest other members of the Pace Community get involved with causes that are important to them?

Starting wasn't too hard for me! I honestly Googled "colon cancer nonprofits", read about the ones operating both nationally and in New York, then e-mailed people for information on how I could get involved. That's how I met Martha Raymond, now executive director of Michael’s Mission (MM), at the time she was with a national organization and running the New York State chapter and was eager to have a young caregiver involved.

My suggestion for someone wanting to get involved with a cause that's near and dear to them is just go for it! Don't be afraid to reach out to someone via social media or attend an event in person. It's such a great feeling of community and camaraderie when you find a cause or organization where the support is mutual!

What will your new role at Michael’s Mission entail and how does that dovetail with what you do professionally at Pace?

My role at Michael’s Mission is two-pronged: first I work directly with the executive director on marketing for the organization, so not only do I create and implement strategic campaigns for the organization as a whole and our unique programs, I also handle our social media accounts! Second, I work on community relations for the organization. As the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths in the US, colorectal cancer is something little talked about and it's our goal at Michael's Mission to raise awareness, support patients and their families, educate our community, and bring the nonprofit colorectal community together.

So my role at MM is similar to the work I do at Pace. I love the work I do in Government and Community Relations (GCR)—not only is it fun, but it's challenging and rewarding. The GCR office works hard to raise the University’s profile with key community stakeholders and elected officials and the work I plan to do with MM is very similar in this respect.  

What are the other organizations you are involved with?

I have worked with a lot of organizations over the last 5+ years I have been active in the cause, but currently I'm a member of the Young Leaders Board for the Colon Cancer Challenge Foundation (CCCF), a newly-trained Ambassador for Fight Colorectal Cancer (FightCRC), and work for Michael’s Mission!

CCCF is a Westchester-based organization that organized the first colon cancer walk/run in the country dubbed "The Challenge" and takes place in March during Colorectal Cancer Awareness month. It's grown into a movement where communities all over the country can host a smaller version, and I was lucky enough to be asked to co-chair the first Westchester County Challenge and now serve on their Young Leaders Board.

FightCRC is an advocacy organization who focuses on fighting for policy change, research funding, raising awareness, and patient support. Their signature event "Call on Congress" is entering its 10th year in 2016 and patients, survivors, caregivers, and advocates gather in Washington, DC, for three days meeting with elected officials and sharing their stories. FightCRC is also active on social media with successful campaigns such as #1millionstrong and #strongarmselfie.

Michael’s Mission is focused on improving the quality of life and treatment options for those suffering from colorectal cancer through education, research, and patient support. One of their coolest programs is their Patient and Family Support Program at the Jay Monahan Center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. Colorectal cancer patients and caregivers are invited to participate in the program which is designed to help them cope with the emotional challenges of being diagnosed and living with colorectal cancer.

How can faculty and staff get involved with any of the groups you work with? 

If anyone wants to get involved, just shoot me an e-mail or check them out on Facebook or Twitter. The awesome people I have met through my efforts come from across the country, from different backgrounds, are in different stages of treatment, and are some of the best people I have had the opportunity to meet. Not just because we are united in the cause to support and educate the world about colorectal cancer and find a cure, but because we have fun, love life, and support each other!

Are you a Pace faculty or staff member with a fun hobby, interest, part-time job, or passion? Know someone that fits the bill? E-mail opportunitas@pace.edu to share your story with us and other faculty and staff!