Jon Jack fights to help find a cure for cancer through fundraising, volunteering

July 08, 2011|By TAYLOR ECKEL |
  • Jon Jack, of Martinsburg, W.Va., left, is dressed as a pirate during the 2010 Jefferson County Relay for Life. He's holding Derrick Carper, a fellow contestant in that year's Mr. Relay contest. Jack is active in several American Cancer Society's Relay for Life events and was recognized earlier this year for his volunteer service.
Submitted photo

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — The costumes Jon Jack has donned at local Relay For Life events are proof that he is willing to do "anything for Relay."

Jack, of Martinsburg, W.Va., has dressed up as Shrek, a superhero, a pirate and also as a female football player to raise awareness and money to support cancer research.

But for all the silliness, Jack is serious about his dedication to the American Cancer Society.

On March 25, he was awarded the American Cancer Society's Award of Excellence for Volunteer Communication for the South Atlantic Division. The award was presented at a special banquet during the Division's Volunteer Leadership Summit in Atlanta.

"The Awards of Excellence are the highest honor we bestow on our volunteers, community groups and businesses," Paula Mohan, CEO of the South Atlantic Division, said in a press release. "The leadership and dedication demonstrated by these award recipients is exceptional, and we're grateful to have them out in our communities representing our organization."

Jack said this year marks his 12th year of involvement with Relay for Life. He joined a local team in 2000 after his mother, Irene Rock Jack, was diagnosed with breast cancer. The experience was "powerful," and Jack said he and his mother planned to attend a Relay For Life event together in 2001. Unfortunately, Jack's mother passed away in January 2001 before they were able to participate together.

"I stayed involved in her memory," Jack said, adding that once he became involved, there was no turning back.

"(My first year) I was just a team member. I was kind of running around like a chicken with its head cut off because I had no idea what I was doing," he said.

Since then, Jack said he has participated in 17 other Relays, expanded his volunteer involvement and trained other volunteers at state leadership conferences.

"Relay for Life is like a hot dog. If you knew what went into it, you might not want to do it," he said. "But once you experience one, you'll crave them."

Jack points to his own experience with Relay as an example.

"Look at me — I was just a nobody who raised 700 bucks and walked around the track," he said. "Now I've got people from all over the East Coast calling me for help."

His involvement has meant long hours and a tireless commitment to connecting with "Relayers" up and down the coast.

"I would guess in March, April, and May, I probably spend 20 hours (volunteering) on the weekend and maybe a few more throughout the week," he said.

Jack said much of his volunteer work has been focused on the online communication aspects of Relay. After participating as a team member, he said he began to brainstorm how he could use his expertise as a software tester to serve Relay.

"I worked for an Internet company at the time, and I was trying to figure out a way to do fundraising on the Internet," he said. "It made more sense to me (than traditional fundraising)."

Jack explained that he thought online fundraising would be a more productive alternative to traditional fundraising, because people often have limited cash on hand or are concerned about the balance of their checking account.

"Usually when people are able to give via credit card they are able to give from their heart and not from their wallet," he said.

Jack said his search for the best way to do fundraising on the Internet lead him to do extensive research and even contact some unusual sources. At one point, he even contacted the billing departments of adult websites to find out how they managed online transactions.

His hard work was made apparent when he attended the fundraising session at a Relay For Life workshop.

"I was the only one who knew anything about the (online fundraising) companies," he said. "It just kind of snowballed from there"

Jack credits his natural curiosity and a desire to problem-solve for his commitment to developing the online fundraising options for local Relay events.

In addition to his work with online fundraising, Jack said he also updates local websites and utilizes social media to share information.

"I try to communicate in as many ways as possible in the online environment," he said. "If you're going to do (an event), people need to know about it."

Jack said he had never realized how many lives are touched by cancer until he got involved with Relay.

"It has truly changed my life," he said. "You see a lot of beautiful things."

He said he has been able to meet survivors, raise awareness and offer resources to those currently fighting cancer.

"It's just a powerful experience," he said.

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