The Barbara Harmon Unsung Hero Award was founded in memory of an incredible woman who never received nor wanted any credit for her countless hours of community service, charity contributions and volunteerism. She made a difference in the lives that crossed her own, from working with babies addicted to crack to being at the World Trade Center and assisting however she could for 6 months straight after the tragedy of 9/11. Sadly, due to an illness brought on directly from those efforts, Barbara passed away in 2002. The life she chose to lead embodies that of a true “unsung hero” and so, each year at the Annual Shortstack Charity Fashion Show, we honor an organization or individual who, carefully selected from many submissions, we feel carries the same spirit; an organization or individual that contributes to the lives of others. Their selfless service often goes unrecognized, and the Unsung Hero Award is intended to bring light to the work that they do.
Rich Canci embraces the spirit of life in so many ways. Sign on to his Facebook page and at first glance you see a 23-year-old Nursing student, bartender, and lead singer for the band When All Else Fails. Dig a little deeper and you find a young man who is motivational, spirited, passionate, and making his mark on the world. Rich is also a 5-time cancer survivor.
Rich has battled Osteo Sarcoma since the age of 8 years old, leading to the amputation of his leg at that young age. Doctors assured him that there was a 99% chance the cancer would not come back if he had his leg removed. Unfortunately, the doctors were wrong, as 3 years later the cancer came back, this time showing up in his lungs. At the age of 14, he battled once again, coming out victorious for the 3rd time, and thinking he was in the clear to move forward with his life.
After 6 years of being clean and in the middle of nursing school, Rich found a bump on his back, discovering that this was only to be a secondary cancer, believed to be caused from all the chemotherapy he had. He went through 2 months of radiation and a back surgery… ONLY to get sick for the 5th time, 6 months later.
Rich has never taken a defeated attitude and he faced this challenge head on, working out constantly and becoming as healthy as possible. He lost 40 pounds with diet and exercise, while researching and exploring his own holistic post treatment. The result culminated in beating cancer for a 5th time!! His inspiration and fight is enough to inspire anyone, but this alone is not why he was chosen to receive the Unsung Hero Award. With his passion, attitude, fight, and focus, Rich made a decision from his soul to take his life experience, and use it in a way that would have a lasting impact for others.
What Rich is truly known for is his extra curricular activities and support with pediatric cancer patients. He can often be found in the pediatric ward of Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital or creating shock value and standard breaking (sound familiar?) awareness surrounding this dreaded disease, with his store and blog called F*$k Cancer. This eye opening approach to fundraising is gaining recognition and support quickly! The money he raises from this campaign goes directly to the families who need it, and not to research. He created “Play for Paris”, a charity metal show, that was originally created for a little girl battling cancer. Since then, he has run 4 of these shows and several fundraisers, raising thousands of dollars for families. His last F*$k Cancer party raised $3500 for his friends brother who recently passed away. Rich embodies everything the Unsung Hero stands for and we support him in his continued growth and wish him the best of luck in his endeavors!
Shortstack and WOO are honored to have Rich accept the Unsung Hero Award this year. We applaud Mr. Canci for his generous contributions and hard work.
Congratulations and thank you!