Craig Pollard was just a 15-year-old high school student when he first learned he had Hodgkin’s disease. After surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments, his disease went into remission — only to return four years later when he was a college student at the University of Southern California (USC).
Pollard sought help at City of Hope, where he received an autologous bone marrow transplant (a procedure using his own bone marrow), and successfully returned to college soon after. Now he is helping other patients so they, too, can pursue an education.
Upon graduating from USC’s entrepreneur program in its business school, he started up Global Tour Golf (www.ggolf.com), a successful golf accessories distributing company. He drew on that golf experience to create the Cancer for College Golf Tournament, which provides scholarships for current and former cancer patients.
“As a two-time cancer survivor, I wanted to do something for my fellow cancer patients,” said Pollard. “I had volunteered as a camp counselor for kids with cancer, and the light went on as the kids told me how cool it was that I was able to finish college while being treated.”
Scholarships offered include $16,000 ($4,000 a year for four years), as well as one-time scholarships ranging from $100 to $1,000. Cancer for College accepts applications all year and from all states at www.cancerforcollege.org. “We do not turn down any applicants,” Pollard said.
Amputees were recently added to the foundation’s scholarship criteria, whether they have had cancer or not. “I lost my legs last year due to a bacterial infection,” explained Pollard. “When I was in the hospital, I told my wife we need to turn this amputation into a positive. She looked at me like I was nuts, but we added amputees to the list and have now provided two amputees with scholarships.”
Past scholarship awardee Gary Anderson received a bone marrow transplant at City of Hope at age 6 for acute lymphocytic leukemia, with his sister Jennifer as his donor. After Anderson gave a speech as a teenager at City of Hope’s annual “Celebration of Life” Bone Marrow Transplant Reunion, Pollard approached him and suggested he apply for a scholarship. Anderson not only won a four-year scholarship, but upon graduation from University of California, Santa Barbara, he was hired by Pollard and currently works in sales for Global Tour Golf.
“Cancer for College turned out to be a lot more than a scholarship to me,” Anderson said, noting that has stayed active with the foundation over the years, working hard to coordinate tournament details and enlist many scholarship applicants. “It’s kind of like a reunion of sorts, seeing all of the new and old scholarship winners. And it gets better every year. There used to be just three or four of us, but now we can barely fit everyone on stage.”
This year’s tournament, attended by 220 golfers, raised $200,000 and included celebrity appearances by actor Will Ferrell and comedian Sean Kent, tee prizes, a raffle, live auction, lunch, dinner and the scholarship awards. Pollard hopes to expand fundraising efforts in the future by holding events all across the country.
“Knowing that I would ultimately return to college after my bone marrow transplant gave me the strength to keep fighting. It gave me a reason to live,” Pollard said. He considers it an honor to provide that same hope and inspiration to others who have battled cancer.