It’s been 14 years since Ross Schwartz of Costa Mesa, Calif., lost his mom, Robin Joy Schwartz, to pancreatic cancer. He was only 11 years old at the time. After feeling a tugging at his heart to get involved, Ross connected with several members of the PanCAN Orange County Affiliate of volunteers.
Knowing he has a valuable skill as an event planner in his day job with the Anaheim Ducks NHL team, he recently committed to being the Event Experience Chair for PanCAN PurpleStride Orange County.
It’s been 14 years since Ross was fully immersed in the world of pancreatic cancer. But that feeling of wanting to do more, that need to help kids whose parents have been diagnosed, it never went away. It’s probably because Ross’s mom was a philanthropist herself.
He talked a lot about her commitment to her community in a recent interview.
“For as long as I can remember, my mom was involved in different nonprofit organizations,” he said. “She was always bringing me along to charity events. I know she would be really happy to see me doing this.”
When Ross was young, he didn’t know right away that his mom was battling cancer. His parents didn’t want him to have to live with it every day at such a young age. But after some time, his mom sat him down and explained what was happening. “She took off her beanie and told me she had been going through chemotherapy and explained what cancer was,” Ross said.
I asked Ross to tell me a little about his mom. “She rocked gold fanny packs for her port and always kept it fashionable. She was super excited that she had gotten the same wig as Beyonce. She had a ’67 Mustang convertible. We’d be riding in the convertible, and she’d just be holding down the wig. She was awesome.”
He said that Robin was the kind of mom that would break him out of school every so often to take him to the beach. So, Ross and his dad reciprocated by breaking her out of the hospital to take her, too.
Just a couple years after his mom passed, Ross and his family attended a PanCAN fundraiser event in Malibu. That was his first experience with PanCAN and little did he know at the time, it wouldn’t be his last.
Over the years, he continued to have this feeling that something was missing. He realized that he needed to do something to get involved in the fight against pancreatic cancer. He told me, “I want to help people not have to go through the same situation that I had to go through. I just want to help extend life expectancy, help find a cure, fundraise for resources to help families going through it.”
In 2020 Ross signed up for PurpleStride Orange County as an event volunteer. But when the event went virtual, he made a commitment to himself to fundraise. He promised himself that if he reached his fundraising goal, that he would run a 10K. With the help of his dad and close network of friends and family, he ended up raising more than $5,000 for PanCAN. Funds that support the patients and families PanCAN serves by providing free support, information, and resources to help them navigate their journey.
In August, Ross accepted the role of Event Experience Chair, a volunteer position, and has big plans to make sure he carries on his mom’s legacy of giving. “It’s a strange tugging at you that most people just don’t understand. I honestly don’t think I’d feel fulfilled without it.”
This article written by guest contributor Jamie Foltz, who is the PurpleStride Chair in the PanCAN Columbus, Ohio, Affiliate.