The Voice

From Impacts to Action: Telling the Stories of ULC Board Members

Upstage Lung Cancer board members are behind every show, grant, podcast and blog post that the organization gets or creates. Inspired by their hard work, I asked them what made them want to join the organization’s board in the first place.

Don Warnock has been with the nonprofit’s board from the beginning. He is active in the Boston creative scene, runs a film company and is involved with theatrical productions and cabaret performances. Don got to know Upstage Lung Cancer founder, Hildy Grossman, through their involvement in music and theater. According to Don, Hildy “knew I was a technical director and asked if I would join the board.” Since then, he has handled the lighting and technical aspects of all of the live shows that Upstage has held.

Upstage Lung Cancer board members
Upstage Lung Cancer Board members gather together regularly, in-person or virtually, to plan the organization’s next big performance event.

He felt motivated to join both because of his friend, Hildy, because health has always been of interest to him, and as a chance to use his creative talents more frequently. “Most people who are in theater would like to do more theater,” he notes. For him, Upstage Lung Cancer is “not just about getting money or putting on a show.” Instead, it can “appeal to people about what else they want to do” in relation to lung cancer, other health issues, and making a difference.

Upstage Lung Cancer’s treasurer, Nancy Swan, joined the board at the recommendation of her sister, Jane, who had lung cancer. When she got the news about her sister’s diagnosis in 2011, it was the last thing that Nancy expected. “It was just a shocking diagnosis for someone who had always taken care of herself, not to mention a never smoker,” she said. Jane was involved in the Boston music community as a classical musician, church organist and choral conductor. “She and Hildy had a mutual acquaintance in the local music world who introduced them. When Jane met Hildy, she mentioned she was looking for a treasurer for the organization and Jane recommended me, as I have some business background and bookkeeping experience,” Nancy said.

Although she first heard of Upstage Lung Cancer through her sister, the cause also appealed to Nancy. “Hildy and I hit it off and share some common interests, I found her story compelling and liked the idea of doing something, however small, to try to change the lack of early diagnosis for lung cancer. So, I’ve been the treasurer ever since!” Nancy explained. In addition to her duties as a treasurer, Nancy initially helped out with organizing the group’s silent auction, selling tickets and merchandise, but has lately shifted her focus exclusively to Upstage Lung Cancer’s finances.

Connections to family and friends who had been impacted by lung cancer also motivated board member Dale Appel to join Upstage Lung Cancer. Her father had a lung disease and was on oxygen, though Dale was never able to confirm that it was lung cancer. The disease’s impact on other people in her life was clearer: Her paternal grandfather and cousin died of lung cancer, and she also knew a friend who was diagnosed with it, but never smoked.

Dale got involved with the board for Upstage Lung Cancer the second year after it started. She went to the first ULC fall concert and helped out as a volunteer with the silent auction. Then she was able to join the board shortly after. As part of the board of directors, she helps out with PR, editing written materials and also pens some of the personalized thank you notes to Upstage Lung Cancer’s donors. Dale points out that many members of the public have little awareness of lung cancer and its affects, but the statistics hit differently once family members are impacted. “Most people are not aware how many people die from lung cancer,” Dale said, adding “when people in your family get it, you ask ‘Why aren’t there more people researching this?’”

She may be unable to change the past, but Dale hopes for future improvements for her relatives’ sake. “As a mother and grandmother with this in my family, I want better options for my children and grandchildren.”