It might have been fate that lead 68-year-old Dave Kimmel of Altoona to the American Cancer Society.
Cancer has deeply impacted Kimmel personally, but he began volunteering with the American Cancer Society 20 years before his mother and brother died of cancer and 30 years before he was diagnosed with skin cancer.
Kimmel is retiring after seven years as regional vice president of the American Cancer Society of the central Pennsylvania region.
(Mirror photo by J.D. Cavrich)
Dave Kimmel sits at the American Cancer Society office in Hollidaysburg. Kimmel started to volunteer at the society in 1963.
It was 1963 and Kimmel was working at Penn State Altoona as director of university relations. The chairman of the university board at the college, James K. McNeal Jr., encouraged Kimmel to volunteer with the American Cancer Society.
''He came to my office and said 'You're going to do this.' And, I said, 'Yes sir,'" Kimmel said.
After graduating from Penn State University, Kimmel landed the job at Penn State Altoona, where he worked for 15 years. He then left the college and started working as director of marketing and communications at Mercy Hospital, which later changed its name to Bon Secours. After 25 years, Kimmel left the hospital during downsizing.
THE KIMMEL FILE
Name: Dave Kimmel
Profession: Regional vice president of American Cancer Society, central Pennsylvania region
Volunteerism: American Cancer Society volunteer since 1963, member of the Pennsylvania Board of Directors for the American Cancer Society, Blair County Easter Seal Society Board of Directors member, Blair Senior Services Board of Directors member, Child Advocates of Blair County Board of Directors member, Kiwanis International member
''I was 62 at the time. I felt I could do consulting work. Someone else would have had to lose their job. We just had to eliminate a position," Kimmel said. Kimmel's consulting work lasted three months until he was offered the regional vice president position at the American Cancer Society.
During his careers at the college and the hospital, Kimmel continued to volunteer with the cancer society. In addition, his mother died of breast cancer in 1988 and his brother died of stomach cancer in 1982. Kimmel was diagnosed with skin cancer in 1996, which he overcame through radiation treatments at the hospital.
''It's so much more meaningful when you've been affected by someone in your family or a close friend," Kimmel said.
Needless to say, Kimmel was a perfect fit for the regional vice president position.
''He brought a lot of enthusiasm and a great personality," said Tony DeGol, chairman of marketing and communication for the society board.
During Kimmel's involvement with the American Cancer Society, he has seen many improvements with cancer research and fundraising. One of his favorite ventures has been Relay For Life. The local Relay For Life events have expanded and the relays on college campuses have become huge events. Local elementary schools also have started participating in mini-relays.
Kimmel said it is important for young people to become involved and stay involved.
''What did McDonald's do? They got young kids. That's what we're trying to do. We have to make it fun for them, meaningful for them," he said. ''To have seen that grow with the relay has just been something else."
''He did a fabulous job for Relay For Life," said Judy Halbritter of Duncansville. Halbritter met Kimmel in 1980 while working at Mercy Hospital. Kimmel encouraged her to volunteer with the American Cancer Society.
''David is a wonderful person to work for. He always sets high but attainable goals. He never stops until he reaches them. That's the kind of person he is. He does whatever it takes," Halbritter said. ''Total commitment is David's constant companion."
Judy Winfield, president of the advisory board for Blair County, said she admires him as an excellent communicator and leader.
''He's so caring and he truly is dedicated,'' Winfield said.
Kimmel never married or had children, so he has been able to dedicate a lot of time and energy to the society.
Through his involvement with the society, Kimmel has become close with many volunteers, cancer survivors and cancer patients. While it is difficult to see his friends die of cancer, Kimmel said his job is not depressing.
''It becomes very emotional at times. Yes, you get sad news. But, then my gosh, but the following day, there is someone who is very positive and has great news. The good comes when you get someone who is in remission. Cancer can be so devastating. These people are true heroes," Kimmel said.
A volunteer he was very close to was Todd Sparks, who died of cancer. When Sparks was in hospice, Kimmel would stop by to see him every day. Kimmel said he admired Sparks for his positive attitude.
''He stayed upbeat until the end. His first question to me would be, 'How are you doing?'" Kimmel said.
Sparks was a collector of "The Wizard of Oz" memorabilia, so the theme for Relay For Life for Sparks' family and friends was always centered on "The Wizard of Oz." It was raining the day of the relay the year after Sparks died. As Kimmel and the other cancer survivors were walking around the track, Kimmel saw the Sparks family, and behind the family was a rainbow.
''I just said, 'Hey guys. That's Todd.'" Kimmel said. ''It was amazing."
That was one of Kimmel's most memorable moments, but there have been many during his service with the society.
''There are so many special moments, so many special people,'' Kimmel said, explaining that he will miss his staff and the volunteers the most. "The staff and volunteers are dedicated to the cause and truly believe in their work. Volunteers are essential to increasing the number of success stories,'' Kimmel said.
''You just have to think, 'What more can I do?' It can be so difficult, but there are many success stories," he said. Although he is retiring, Kimmel plans to stay involved with the cancer society. With work and determination, the number of success stories will increase, he said.
The biggest misconception about retirement, Kimmel said, is that there will not be enough to do.
''Everyone always asks, 'Now what are you going to do?' I don't think anybody going into retirement should be asked that question," Kimmel said.
Kimmel said he might take a few weeks to relax, but soon after, he will be busy volunteering with the cancer society again, as well as other local charities.
''There's no question he's going to be missed. He has a level of enthusiasm for the job that I think is going to be hard to match. He has been wonderful for the American Cancer Society," DeGol said. ''He'll still be involved in the society, but we're sad to see him go."
DeGol said Kimmel always says, ''Good. Good. Good," when someone asks how things are going. ''That's fitting because all the work he's done has been good, good, good," DeGol said.