Brock Yetso: I am President & CEO of The Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. We are a non-profit organization based here in Baltimore, Maryland. We were founded in 1997 with a pretty simple yet profound mission and promise and that is to ensure that no young adult has to face cancer alone. I have been very blessed to be a part of the organization for its entire existence. We have been around for 18 years and I have been the President & CEO for the past 15. Similar to, I think, a lot of people are getting involved with this organization, I started as a volunteer and even before that I started as a client. I, like so many young people was touched by cancer when my mom was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer and The Ulman Cancer Fund stepped in and helped my family get through a tough time and that experience essentially helped me fall in love with an organization that means so much to me and so much to so many other people. So, I started volunteering in the organization back in 2000, was going through a time of transition when Doug Ulman, our founder that started it was moving on to another opportunity and the family was trying to figure out what they wanted to do. Before the age of 21, Doug was diagnosed with cancer three times and what he experienced very quickly and early on being a young guy on a college campus looking for support resources was that there were few to none out there. So he rolled up his sleeves, he called his parents, and said we need to do something about this. There is more Doug Ulmans out there on campuses and we want to help them not be alone. So we started the foundation out of his dorm room, brought it back here to Maryland around the dining room table of the Ulman family in Ellicott City, Maryland and they have been working hard ever since.
There was this void. Cancer patients and families were being diagnosed in cancer centers and then were being forced to search the Internet, get on the phone and basically go find advocacy groups that could help them with their challenges and their problems and so we made a strategic shift in the way that we deliver our work and we started partnering with some of the top cancer centers in the country that are based here in Baltimore. We launched our first Young Adult Navigation Program at the University of Maryland, Greenebaum Cancer Center, where we embedded a full-time, trained Young Adult Patient Navigator and they spend every single day focusing on serving the needs of their young cancer patients and helping them find resources both in the hospital, in the community, resources that are available through our network and through our organization to make sense of their cancer treatment and then when they leave the cancer be a part of a larger community where they can live life without cancer.
Our organization was founded in Howard County. We still have office space there, but we knew we needed to be where young people live, work, play and unfortunately get treated for cancer and that is here in Baltimore and in the city and so we started looking for space everywhere under the sun. I don’t want to say we stumbled across this space, it was meant to be and we were brought here and it is a beautiful space and we worked with a variety of our… some of our supporters and our partners and our landlord Merritt to build it out in a way that we think is conducive and more so enhances a collaborative approach to helping people fight cancer. So it is very open.
We have support groups that are run here for cancer patients and families here in Baltimore. We have large groups that come in here that are volunteering and that are raising money for us, we have had upwards of 200 people in this space or we have 20-25 people that are working every single day.
Our promise and vision from day one is to ensure that no young person has to face cancer alone and that still remains it. But the plan is to ensure that everyone in this country that is between the ages of 15 and 39 has access to the resources at a cancer diagnosis and when they leave the cancer center. And so we are leveraging, scaling and modeling the programs that we have built here in our community in Baltimore and in the D.C. region that work and we know they work at some of the top cancer centers in the country and in some of the most diverse and robust communities in our country and taking them to more places. There are a lot of people out there that have it a lot worse than we do in that moment, and we see that every single day here in our work. Young people and families in our cancer centers that are dealing with unimaginable odds, consequences and challenges, and we are here to help them, and so we need to keep it in perspective that there is a lot we can do and sometimes a little can make a huge difference.