Nonprofit founder named Optimist of the Year

September 16, 2018

Tom Russell, founder of Children’s Cancer Partners of the Carolinas, was named the 2017-2018 South Carolina Optimist District “Optimist of the Year.” Russell received the award in a small surprise ceremony at his home.

“Tom is a shining example of how Optimist brings out the best in our children, our communities and ourselves,” said John Grover, president of the Childhood Cancer Optimist Club, an organization that provides support for the mission of CCP. “This gentleman is the Optimist gift that keeps on giving. Not only does he ‘talk the talk,’ Tom Russell ‘walks the walk,’ and we are so grateful to have him in our club.”

Russell began his work for children battling cancer in 2001 and is still devoted to serving the needs of over 400 children served by CCP. In the late 1990s, Russell left the Optimist International Convention with a new goal of helping children facing the crisis of childhood cancer in Spartanburg. His mission grew into a nonprofit organization that now helps children in every county of North and South Carolina by providing financial support for transportation, meals and lodging. The nonprofit also offers families assistance with coordinating access to care, provides opportunities for families to connect through monthly events and hosts a yearly Camp Victory, a summer program uniquely designed for children with cancer and their families.

“I’m humbled and amazed,” said Russell of his honor. “It means so much to be recognized for my passion. When I began this organization almost 20 years ago, I could have never imagined the impact it would make. I’d like to thank everyone that has helped us grow along the way.”

“Tom Russell has played a monumental role in the life of Children’s Cancer Partners,” said Laura Allen, executive director of CCP. “Not only was he instrumental during the organization’s infancy, he has sustained his enthusiastic support for CCP as we have expanded our reach outside Spartanburg and throughout the Carolinas. Tom’s caring and compassionate nature has made a real difference in the lives of so many of our CCP families. He continues to serve as a champion for Carolina children who are fighting the greatest battle of their lives and we are grateful to South Carolina Optimists for recognizing him for this important work.”

An Aiken native, Russell was raised in Spartanburg. In 2017 he was awarded the prestigious Algernon Sydney Sullivan Award by Wofford College.

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