Making lasting change in Alaska via community investment

By Carey Carpenter

Updated: 1 hour ago Published: 1 hour ago

This is a love letter to the Alaska Community Foundation (ACF). With everything that is going wrong in the world, this is a story about what is going right. ACF believes in the power of long-term community investment to create lasting change for the benefit of future generations, and they envision an Alaska where communities come together and have resources to thrive.

It is hard to put into words the positive impact that ACF has on one of our very specific communities. First, let me introduce myself. I’m the director of the Anchorage Young Cancer Coalition (AYCC), a support group for young adults that have been diagnosed with cancer. Though we are based in Anchorage, we support members throughout the state.

It’s nearly impossible to imagine what it’s like to be living your young adult life – maybe you’re starting your first job, or getting ready to start a family, or settling into your first home, or raising toddlers – when you get a cancer diagnosis out of left field. It is truly shocking and devastating in a way that is indescribable, because nobody sees it coming and nobody thinks it will happen to them, until it does. In the best of times, navigating cancer is extremely difficult. In COVID-19 times, the situation is made significantly worse. The vulnerability of severe COVID symptoms or fatal illness due to the immune-suppressive effects of common cancer treatments has driven cancer patients to take extra precautions for the last two years including self-isolation and reduced physical contact, which significantly alter the social and peer support networks for someone just when they are needed most.

Of course, there are the practical issues experienced by the cancer patient, including deepening financial hardship, employment changes, loss of income, and on and on and on. This trauma and complexity of fighting to stay alive – not just from cancer, but also from the pandemic – has understandably and undeniably affected our mental health. This is where ACF shines, swooping in like a superhero to truly make a positive impact.

ACF recently awarded a grant to our little local nonprofit that will allow us to provide online mental health therapy without any barriers to anyone in our group who wants it. This is truly amazing. Someone with a cancer diagnosis realizing that they need a professional to talk to, can get one by just logging on! Talk about long-term community investment and benefiting future generations! This gift is truly one that is sorely needed, and one that I wish was available to all Alaskans.

You want to help society improve for the future? Just imagine the positive impacts that would be felt if all of our vulnerable Alaskans, no matter the kind of trauma that they experience – physical, sexual, emotional or verbal abuse, kids growing up in foster care, disease, anxiety, depression, relationship issues , LGBTQ + matters, anger, stress, addiction, eating issues, family conflict, grief, coping with life changes – could access a mental health professional. Because if I could just “click, click” and get someone to help me navigate my trauma, well maybe I would be a better parent, partner, friend, co-worker, boss, and neighbor. The members of AYCC do not have to imagine it because it’s here and it’s thanks to the work of ACF.

Thank you, ACF, for helping remove the barriers so we can access the resources that we need to thrive! Thank you for the work that you do to improve the lives of Alaskans.

Carey Carpenter was diagnosed with breast cancer at 34 years old and is founder and Director of the Anchorage Young Cancer Coalition.

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