Will Peoples: The People’s Champion

By Nicholas Malfitano

If one was to personify words such as “selfless” and “altruism”, one conversation with Will Peoples would likely be enough to convince that he is a candidate for such definitions.

Peoples, a 32 year-old athletic trainer and married father of two children in Philadelphia, was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) earlier this year. It’s one of the more devastating forms of that cancer, characterized by attack to the lymphoid line of blood cells and rapid progression; one which necessitates immediate treatment if one is to survive it.

And yet, Peoples’s focus was then and is now on other people: Both those who have helped him battle the disease and the impact it has had on his family, and also those he now seeks to help in turn.

For the aptly-named Peoples, his life journey continues.

It’s a journey which was interrupted by his leukemia diagnosis in February.

“I went into the hospital for in-patient therapy. I had [undergone] a series of chemo and I went into remission for about three months. Then, I had a bone marrow transplant from my father, who was my donor,” Peoples recalled.

At that time, Peoples’s doctors spoke with Mike Rowe, founder of Legacy of Hope, to connect the two men in the hopes that the organization could assist Peoples and his family.

“From a conversation that I wasn’t in, but that Mike and my doctors were in, they basically told Mike about me. I met Mike a month or so ago. My wife and I had a chat with him about our situation,” Peoples said.

Since then, Peoples explained that Legacy of Hope has been able to actively support him and his family with their living expenses, for which they are very grateful.

“Legacy of Hope actually came to me, and I appreciate the way that Mike and the foundation [did so]. They go searching for families. They don’t give to those who are stable, they look for folks who are most in need at the time. Mike told me stories about how he kept folks in their homes, because they were evicted. It’s all for a good cause that he’s doing it,” Peoples said.

Peoples added that a cancer diagnosis usually means that those in that position and working a full-time job will need to stop working, and if they have a partner, that partner can sometimes take on the role of caregiver.

That was the case with Peoples’s wife Brooke, who had been working full-time until her husband’s leukemia diagnosis last February.

Subsequent to that diagnosis, the disease did adversely impact Peoples’s ability to work. An athletic trainer by profession, his undergraduate studies in college consisted of a double major in both biology and athletic training.

“I was certified about a year or so ago. Pretty much what I do is that I go to different sporting events throughout the city and suburbs and do coverage, both pre- and post-coverage,” Peoples stated.

Peoples said pre-coverage consists of stretching and taping various parts of the body, while post-coverage includes application of ice and post-activity stretching. He added that he attends games of various sports at all levels, both amateur and professional, to provide these athletic training services where the need is greatest.

Such services would do well to come in handy for runners participating in next March’s Love Run Half-Marathon and 7K races. Those both looking to run and contribute to the work Legacy of Hope does, can sign up through the group’s #PhillyRunsFree initiative.

Peoples and his wife are both registered to participate in the half-marathon.

Runners who sign up for the Love Run Half-Marathon or 7K on March 29, 2020 and raise $200 for Legacy of Hope, will have their race registration fee automatically refunded.

Runners can visit Philly Runs Free to register for the Love Run Half-Marathon. When prompted, select “Philly Runs Free Opt-In.” All runners who opt-in are still eligible to run with their home team and will be prompted to join that team during the registration process.

“Last year, we had 350 runners from all over come together to support the Philadelphia cancer community. They raised $131,000 in the process. The show of unity was inspiring and uplifting for anyone involved in the fight against cancer,” Rowe said.

Returning to Peoples and in keeping with his area of professional expertise, he offered advice to runners participating in the Love Run Half-Marathon and 7K races next March.

“My goal is to prepare runners as much as I can for these races. For new runners or seasoned runners, of just how to stretch out major muscle groups that get affected when running long distances: A lot of lower extremity stretches, hamstrings, and quads. Older folks have a lot more overuse [injuries], so there’s a lot of attention to the calf, things like calf strains or Achilles [tendon] tears,” Peoples said.

But, Peoples’s desire to help others doesn’t stop with athletes.

His simultaneous mission is to assist fellow cancer patients and their families, taking the support he received after his diagnosis and paying it forward through sharing the insight of his own battle, in order to provide knowledge and information to others who are in his and his family’s same position.

“Throughout everything, my goal is to be able to reciprocate that type of love and support to other folks that are dealing with what I was dealing with. To be able to give them experience from where I’ve had experience, what to expect, things of that nature. My goal is to pretty much advocate for and help as many people as I can, who are dealing with what I dealt with,” Peoples stated.

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Michele Redrow

Michele is a Director on the Legacy of Hope board and also serves on the Executive Committee.

Gina Mancuso

Gina’s experience as the very successful co-owner of CoreFitness, LLC coupled with her expertise in planning special events makes her the perfect Vice President for Legacy of Hope. With energy, passion, and drive that makes her seem superhuman, Gina’s connection to our mission is a personal one.

“Both my father and my dear childhood friend were diagnosed with cancer within 3 months of one another. They were surrounded and supported by friends and family throughout their battle and until their passing. No one should suffer through a diagnosis alone and, without Legacy of Hope, some people would do just that.”

greg garber

Greg Garber is the director of Oncology Support Services at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center.

dr. kevin kelly

Dr. Kevin Kelly leads Legacy of Hope’s Scientific Review Board to seek out and support the most promising cancer research in Philadelphia using a merit-based system.  He is Jefferson’s Director of Solid Tumor Oncology.

David April

David is the founder of the Fishtown Beer Runners, an organization with chapters all over the world based here in Philadelphia.

joseph ruggieri, jr

Education: Bachelor’s of Science from West Chester University in Management and Finance

Bio: As a member of Wells Fargo Bank, N.A.’s upper management team, Joseph brings a wealth of knowledge regarding finances, management, team-building and planning to the Legacy of Hope board. Joseph linked up with Michael, our President, and Wells Fargo began supporting Legacy of Hope annually.

“My father passed away from what started as Colon Cancer in 2015. Cancer is horrible and if there is something I can do to help others impacted I would want to be a part of it.”

mary chicorelli

Professional:  Mary is a certified city planner for Philadelphia, a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association as well as the Philadelphia Bar Association, and the Pro Bono Honor Roll First Judicial District of Philadelphia.

Bio: Mary’s insight into the legal world is invaluable to Legacy of Hope, both in keeping our daily operations moving fluidly as well as making connections for our patients and their families when needed.

“Michael reached out to me about 2 years ago through mutual friends. We worked together to help a woman with stage 4 cancer get her electricity turned back on after it was shut off during the winter. I’ve been 100% supportive of Mike’s vision since then.”

Kimberly S. Reed

An award winning international speaker, author, corporate trainer and diversity, equality and inclusion executive, nationally recognized thought leader, expert, strategist and advisor to some of the world’s most influential organizations in global professional services, health care, financial services, consumer products and pharmaceutical industries.

Kimberly is a seasoned leader in transforming organizations into high-performing enterprises and challenging leaders to live without limits, with more than 20 years of HR, talent acquisition, and diversity & inclusion experience; successfully turning around troubled diversity practices by designing, building, leading, and shaping high-performing cultures at global organizations with robust strategies, global employee development programs and enterprise-wide initiatives that have increased revenue growth and organizational brand eminence.

Dr. Claudia Capparelli, PhD

Affiliations: Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center

Education: PhD, University of Calabria, Cosenza, Italy – 2011

Focus & Impact:  Focus on the role of the SOX10 transcription factor with regard to tumor cell heterogeneity and plasticity across multiple genotypes in melanoma. Investigating how SOX10 plasticity/heterogeneity affects the response to MEKi and anti-ErbB3 combinations in WT BRAF melanoma patients. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Outrun the Sun Melanoma Research Scholar Award

  • Unical Fellowship Visiting Scholar

  • International Pigment Cell Conference Travel Award

  • Best Poster Presentation, Ninth Annual Jefferson Post-doctoral Research

  • INPDAP Fellowship for Student Merit 

  • University of Calabria Fellowships for Student Merit 

Bryan Lathrop

Bio Coming Soon

Maree Lavo

Bio Coming Soon

Carol Sollenberger

Bio Coming Soon

Rebecca Blinn

Bio Coming Soon

Nia Andrews

Bio Coming Soon

Dr. Qing Chen, M.D., Ph.D.

Affiliations: The Wistar Institute, The Chen Laboratory, University of Maryland

Education: PhD,Immunology, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, State University of New York at Buffalo (Dean’s Award for outstanding dissertation) – 2006

Focus & Impact:  Focus is on the molecular mechanisms of brain metastasis originating from primary tumors like breast cancer, and the interplay between cancer cells and the stromal cells that populate the brain microenvironment. 

Publications: Publications Link

Honors & Awards​:

  • Legacy of Hope Merit Award

  • Jayne Koskinas Ted Giovanis Foundation for Health and Policy Award

  • Susan G. Komen, CCR Basic/Translational and Clinical application

  • The V Foundation for Cancer Research Award

  • Dissertation Research Award, Susan Komen Breast Cancer Foundation 

Michael Rowe

Awards:

Volatile Media Management’s Mover, Shaker, Changemaker Award – February 2017

Miles Mack Community Services & Leadership Honorable Mention – 2016 TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2015

TJUH Emergency Department Technician of the Year, Physicians Choice Award – 2014

Bio:

With his free time so limited, Michael manages to fuse his work with his other passion: running. Whether it is with the Fishtown Beer Runners, our own Team Relentless Hope, or his closest friends, Michael can often be spotted on the streets of Philadelphia keeping himself fit and active.