Meet our Volunteer of the Decade: Lex Friedman
The SAMFund is lucky to have a loyal and committed network of volunteers who help keep things running throughout the year. From helping to coordinate events, to reviewing hundreds of grant applications each year, to raising awareness of The SAMFund in their communities, our volunteers play a huge role in everything we do — and we are so very grateful.
In choosing the recipient of the “Volunteer of the Decade” award for next week’s “Evening of a Million Thanks” event, we realized that there were so many people to whom we could give it! But there is one person who has consistently gone above and beyond to help us, and we’re proud to be giving this award to Lex Friedman of The Mid Roll. A part of The SAMFund from the start, he’s more than a volunteer–he’s an extension of our team, our technical guru, and the guy we have on speed dial during application submission season! How grateful are we to have him as part of The SAMFund family? More than words (and certainly this small award) can say…
Sam and I met in college. She was the president of the college a cappella group that I auditioned for, and I think I won her friendship with my not-quite-appropriate voicemail greeting that she heard when first called and left me a message. (“You want to leave a message for Lex?! What the BEEEEEEEEEEEP.”)
When Sam received her cancer diagnosis, it was one of those moments where you realize that you’re not invincible. If Sam—beloved, adored, and seemingly healthy Sam!—can get cancer, and she was just *one of us*, another college kid—that was pretty scary to come to grips with.
I supported Sam as best I could in college, but that was mostly emailing her stupid jokes while she endured treatment in New York—almost literally the least I could do.
When Sam created The SAMFund after we both were graduated, I concluded that a) Sam was even awesomer than I’d ever realized before, and b) that now there were ways I could help in ways beyond emailed puns.
It started out just sending donations the organization’s way. As I landed a series of nice jobs, I wanted to give back, and giving to The SAMFund felt like the way to do that. And then when Sam and Michelle asked if I would be interested in helping with the application process, I was honored and excited and humbled—and happy to help.
At that time, I kind of loathed the system that The SAMFund used for applications and reviews. Since I had a background as a developer, I decided to offer up my services to help The SAMFund make its own custom application—one that would be easier for applicants and reviewers alike.
We’re so grateful for the technical foundation you created for our grant application cycle. What does it mean for you to know that the result is critical to young adult survivors in need of financial assistance?
I found the premise of your question arresting. I definitely knew and considered that building an application website would make life easier for applicants. But I never thought of it as being “critical to young adult survivors in need of financial assistance.” I take your word for it that it is, and I appreciate your saying so!
It’s not an original sentiment, but I think cancer sucks. The most dramatic effect cancer has, of course, is upon the person doing first-person battle with the disease. But it affects that person’s family and friends, too. In my case, I spent most of Sam’s battles with cancer feeling like I had no idea what to do. Just this year, years after I first started doing what I could to help out The SAMFund, my mom and my 10-year-old nephew both started battling cancer themselves, and I’m right back to feeling that same sense of futility: What the heck can I do? The one thing I *can* do is try to make sure that my family and friends battling cancer know that they’re loved, and that they’re in my thoughts, and that I’m rooting for them.
Hearing from you that the application website is critical to young adult cancer survivors makes me feel, quite frankly, great. Because as important as it is for me to make sure my loved ones feel that love as they do battle with cancer, hearing that I’m also part of something that’s genuinely helping survivors move on—is pretty awesome.
What is your hope for The SAMFund going forward?
A million dollars to survivors is a pretty amazing achievement. I’d like the second million dollars to be given away more quickly. My hope is that The SAMFund only sees it’s success at raising money accelerate, empowering the organization both to help out more survivors, but also to do more for each individual survivor, too.
Before Sam, I had not internalized how beating cancer dramatically affects survivors’ lives. Sam’s diagnosis and treatment clearly made a significant impact on her life’s trajectory—and she’s not alone!
I love hearing that applicants to The SAMFund have goals to help other cancer patients and survivors—by becoming nurses, doctors, therapists, researchers, and such. So my goal for The SAMFund is that it continues to help an increasingly large amount of people in increasingly broad ways. And I especially hope it keeps helping young survivors who want to help *other* survivors accomplish their goals, too.
Lex, thank you so much for all that you have done over the years to help The SAMFund. See you next week in Boston!