Philanthropically Feelin’ Yourself


Who said you couldn’t combine partying with philanthropy?

 by TAYLER BRADFORD    ★    NOV. 3, 2017

As Claire Greenbaum, 21, turns onto Marshall Street, the typical Syracuse University Saturday night scene comes into view. She sees a huge group of eager college students waiting outside the bar DJ’s On the Hill, wearing black T-shirts that read “Fuck Cancer.”

“There was a literal mosh pit of people outside DJ’s waiting to come in,” Greenbaum said. “Seeing so many excited people in their Fuck Cancer shirts was really cool.”

Fuck Cancer is a non-profit charity in the U.S. and Canada that hosts events to raise money and awareness for prevention, early detection and communication of cancer. Because it supports seven types of cancers (breast, lymphoma, pancreatic, colon, lung, leukemia and ovarian), there are seven shirts worn to events, each featuring different colored ribbons.

Greenbaum, a senior communication and rhetorical studies major at SU, sports a teal ribbon because she lost her mother to ovarian cancer when she was 14 years old. In an effort to cope with the loss, she, her father and her two older siblings founded Fuck Cancer to celebrate her life. 

“We sat down as a family and knew we wanted to do something positive with our time and energy, and that was raising money for people who are in similar situations,” Greenbaum says. “My mother loved to have a good time, so we wanted to throw a party in her honor. My sister [Julie] had a great idea of using shirts as tickets.”

In November 2010, the Greenbaum family launched Fuck Cancer with an event at a bar in Montreal. Greenbaum's sister Julie had the idea to use the shirts served as tickets into the party.

“I remember my family would sit in my basement for hours and hours organizing shirts, and people in the community would come over and bring food,” Greenbaum says. “It was like the whole community helped organize it. It was really therapeutic for me and my family as a healing process.”

The night of the event, 350 community members arrived in Fuck Cancer shirts. Ever since, the Greenbaums' have thrown one event in Montreal each year. 

Coincidentally, Yael Cohen Braun, 31, launched her own Fuck Cancer campaign after her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, one year prior to the Greenbaum’s launch. Creating one unified non-profit in 2014, Braun and Julie Greenbaum, Greenbaum's older sister, merged their organizations. Since inception, Fuck Cancer has become international, hosting events in LA, NYC, Canada and London. Since 2009, they have cumulatively raised over $2 million toward cancer research and digital tools.

Because Fuck Cancer is a huge part of Greenbaum’s life, it is no surprise she wanted to bring it to SU. Greenbaum brought it to SU two years ago, during her sophomore year. 

Nicole Engleman, 21, works closely with Greenbaum, helping sell tickets, distribute shirts and keep track of money.

“I'm really proud of Claire for all that she has done with Fuck Cancer because it's something she's been talking about since freshman year and now it's so huge and well known on campus,” said Engleman, a senior magazine journalism major at SU.

As Greenbaum recalled the second event she threw last year, the corners of her lips curved upward into a smile, revealing her teeth. While twirls her long, straight brown hair, her hazel eyes look upward, envisioning the event.

“Watching everyone come into DJ’s with their shirts was really awesome,” she says. “Everyone kept coming up to me and congratulating me. It was nice that people recognized the work.”

But by far, the most special moment Greenbaum experienced was when people shared their connections to cancer with her. “Just hearing people’s stories and knowing that everyone has a tie to [cancer] reminded me that I’m not alone,” she says. “Fuck Cancer has brought people together and it’s been a really empowering experience.”

Alexa Georgakopoulos, 20, attended last year’s event because she lost her grandfather to colon cancer, grandmother to breast cancer and aunt to leukemia.

“Fuck Cancer was a great experience for me because it was a lot of fun and made me realize I’m not alone. It was such a great feeling to raise money for something that is super personal to me,“ said Georgakopoulos, a junior math major at SU.

Engleman agrees, “Fuck Cancer is an awesome organization that gives young people a sense of ownership. I lost my grandpa to pancreatic cancer and this is a way I remember him.”

So far, both events at DJ’s sold out 500 $20 tickets, raising a grand total of $20,000. Greenbaum is throwing her third and final Fuck Cancer event at DJ’s this November 4 at 10 p.m.

Even though Greenbaum does not know her post-graduation plans yet, she will still be involved with Fuck Cancer. As for the continuation of Fuck Cancer at SU, Greenbaum is currently training the girls who are taking it over next year.

“Continuing Fuck Cancer is very important to me because it helps my mom’s legacy live on,” she says, "It makes me remember her and gives me a reason to speak about her.”

Tayler Bradford