Reinventing the Outdoors contest: The comedian will do just about anything for a laugh—especially if it helps cancer survivors go to school.
UPDATED! Launched on Monday April 4, GOOD and the 2011 Ford Explorer will be devoting six weeks to the Reinventing the Outdoors Contest, which showcases amazing organizations like this one that are redefining the way we live, work, and play outside. Check in every day for a new story about the people, celebrities, and programs behind each organization. Help your favorite group win the $50,000 grand prize by voting for them starting Monday, May 16 through Friday, May 20.
From a clueless anchorman to a giant Christmas elf to George W. Bush, Will Ferrell can pretty much make any part funny. He also has a huge heart and is a big part of nonprofit Cancer for College’s success in giving college scholarships to cancer survivors and amputees. He hosts golf event fundraisers, puts his name and face on sunscreen, attends all of the organization’s events, and even goes into hospital wards to meet the kids battling cancer. “I’ve never seen so many kids with IVs laughing, quoting Elf, and kicking up their feet in happiness,” says Craig Pollard, founder of Cancer for College. “He makes a difference just by showing up.” Last year, CFC raised $225,000 at a golf tournament Ferrell hosted, with all proceeds going back to the kids. So how exactly did this Hollywood funnyman become the celebrity face of CFC?
GOOD: How did you become involved in Cancer for College?
Will Ferrell: My good friend Craig Pollard started the charity. He’s a two-time cancer survivor and a former fraternity brother from our days at USC. I remember I couldn’t attend the first event way back in 1993 and sent a check for $50. A few years later I was able to attend and I saw firsthand what an impact this little charity was having on the lives of these kids and I was hooked.
Craig Pollard (with future wife Stacy) and Will Ferrell during their college days
G: Why become involved in this organization out of all the other nonprofits out there?
WF: I do get offered to get behind a number of causes, but Cancer for College is so pure and it’s run so lean. Craig and Stacy Pollard ran it themselves in their spare time for so many years with the help of just a few volunteers. Now they are running events all over the country with just two employees and a lot of volunteer support. I love that so much of the money raised goes directly back to where it belongs, to the kids.
G: What do you like best about attending/hosting the fundraising events?
WF: It’s the kids and their families. They are just amazing and make me feel like such a slacker. They have been through so much, but they just want to be like everyone else. They want a chance to go to college and move on with their life. The most impressive thing is that so many of them have this drive to change the world. They want to be oncologists, nurses and lawyers. Meeting the scholarship recipients and their families could be the thing I look forward to the most.
G: One of the fundraising items on the Cancer for College website is Will Ferrell Sunscreen. What sets yours apart from other sunscreens?
WF: I think the bottle says it all. I’ve always dreamed of owning a lotion company. That aside, all the net proceeds go directly to the scholarship fund. Who else can say that?
Pollard and Ferrell with Samuel Miller, CFC scholarship recipient
G: Do you find that humor is appreciated by these kids?
WF: I’m always touched and slightly amazed when a kid tells me they watched Anchorman ninety-seven times while going through chemo. There was a scholarship recipient a few years back up in Seattle named Will Farrell. I went up and surprised him and attempted to steal his scholarship. Helping these kids and their families laugh and smile through the difficulties that come with cancer treatment is the very least we can do.
G: What is most meaningful to you about being involved with Cancer for College?
WF: It’s the people. It’s the passion of people like Craig Pollard to take a terrible situation like cancer and turn it to a positive for others through this charity. It’s seeing the kids who we are able to help make it through treatment get through college and succeed in life. We met a young lady in Texas last year that had to give up an athletic scholarship because of her cancer. But she fought to stay in school and she is working her way through it. Every year now, it seems that we meet kids who have started their own charity to fight cancer in their own way. It really helps keep your life in perspective when you see the challenges that these people have gone through.
G: Why do you think that Cancer for College should win this contest?
WF: The rumor on the streets is that I may come to every person’s house that votes for Cancer for College and personally make them a grilled cheese sandwich. Now ask yourself, do you really want to run the risk of missing out on that?