I lost my dad, Paul Mitchell, to pancreatic cancer in 1989 when he was only 53 years old and I was just 18. Although the world knew him as a legendary hair care industry entrepreneur, to me he was a very humorous, lighthearted and devoted father.
An only child, I moved from New York City to Hawaii to live with him when I was 11, so we only had a few short years together. However, it was a wonderful time of my life. He had a loving energy and I always enjoyed being with him. I felt very comfortable and safe in his presence.
Although he was very busy at that time managing a growing business, he gave 100 percent of his attention to me when we were together. I remember us doing really fun things like building sand castles, playing tennis and ocean kayaking. He was also the man who taught me how to throw a football and a baseball.
In addition to being a successful businessman, my dad was an ardent philanthropist and a pioneering environmentalist. In fact, he created a self-sufficient solar farm in 1983 and built a solar-powered car in 1987. He was determined to leave the world a better place, and this is one of the many reasons I will always admire him.
He was also a vegetarian and meditated regularly. He once told me something that I will never forget: You know, son, I am going to live to be 150. At that age, I am going to be the one sitting on your lap and pulling on your ears. You can imagine why his pancreatic cancer diagnosis was such a complete shock to all of us.
Today, I am involved in many aspects of the company that he helped to create. In addition to my role as an owner, I work as a hairdresser, platform artist and art director in the organization. I also travel around the world, teaching and promoting the company in many different countries.
Despite my busy schedule, I still make time to support the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. My own commitment reached a new plateau in March of 2009, when I met with California U.S. Representative Henry Waxman at the third annual Pancreatic Cancer Advocacy Day in Washington, D.C., to tell him about my dad and ask for increased federal funding for pancreatic cancer research.
In addition to contributing personal donations, I am currently training for the 2014 Kona Half Marathon. With the support of Paul Mitchell and hairdressers across the world, my goal is to raise awareness and funds for pancreatic cancer research. My mother, Jolina, is an active supporter of the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network. Her many years of philanthropy in my fathers memory have inspired me to run this race.
My father was a guy who took care of himself, yet the disease still struck him down in the prime of his life. I want to give other people the opportunity to complete their lives and not have them shortened by this terrible disease.
I believe the gift in life is how much time we have and the value is what we do with it. I want to make sure everyone facing this disease has the time they need to fulfill their own dreams.