Humans with a side of Technology
June 12, 2020
“Pay your bills now. Save the world later.” This was the advice my dad gave me when I first started working. I would reply, “I’m going to find a way to do both.”
You could say this is just me being a millennial and all, but there are better things to mock than a generation that wants to ‘do good.’ And as it turns out, it’s not just millennials who feel better giving back. Most everyone does. And even if you don’t, you may benefit from knowing that companies that are purpose-driven have outperformed the market historically by up to 42%.
I am proud, not only that I have found a way to prove my above argument, but of the work Neocova is doing at large. Our company’s core mission – to help community banks, and thus communities, to thrive – is in full swing. But from day one, we knew we wanted to do more than this. We chose SebastianStrong, an organization raising awareness and funding for more targeted treatments for childhood cancer, to be our official charity and supported cause, and we haven’t looked back since.
What does cancer have to do with banking you might ask? Well, it is important to note that although our tagline is that we provide technology with a side of humanity, our true core values are empathy and compassion for others, which we strive to show on a daily basis (Perhaps we got our tagline backward?). As we all know, every company is made up of unique individuals. Ideally, the sum of its parts becomes a greater whole, and the tone at the top sets the course and direction. When Lindsay Lockhart, Sultan Meghji and I set out to decide what type of company we wanted to be, it was easy to know that we wanted to create a company with greater purpose and impact. Lindsay had recently stepped down from the board of a pediatric palliative care program in St. Louis, in which cancer was one of the leading causes; Sultan had extensive experience in genetics, biotech, and its applications to cancer; and I was currently on the board for SebastianStrong. It became clear that the battle against cancer was a common thread, and with SebastianStrong’s focus on both children and innovation, we agreed that we had found the perfect organization in which to focus our energies.
SebastianStrong is named after Sebastian Ortiz, a 15-year-old inspiring young man, who was diagnosed with rhabdomyosarcoma in October of 2015. After 14 months of treatment with 40+ year-old technology, many painful chemotherapy and radiation sessions, and several incredibly intensive surgeries, Sebastian passed away on December 29th, 2016. I was dear friends with Oscar Ortiz, Sebastian’s father, during this time, as he was a client of mine at Bank Director. If you know Oscar or the Ortiz family, or any family going through similar situations, you understand that no one deserves this kind of grief.
From here, Oscar was resolved: Children deserve better. And thus, SebastianStrong was created. I had no idea how I might help when first asked to join the board, but the more I learned, the more I realized that this is a money and awareness issue…I realized that we really could make a difference.
Don’t believe me? Did you know that only 4% of federal funding goes to funding for children? Also, as it turns out, adult cancers and children’s cancers are quite different. Add in the toxicity of current treatments, and that no child is able to live a full and happy life without severe health impacts from childhood chemo and radiation. It is clear that we need better solutions for pediatric cancer.
We need more targeted, less toxic solutions. We need to utilize data, collaborate, and think differently. We need to act. SebastianStrong funds discovery science, which is in essence a term that is similar to “innovation” in other industries. We fund research and ideas that wouldn’t be funded otherwise. New approaches. Different thinking. We know the road ahead will be hard, but we have seen many first hand examples of hope, from Zoey with her video dances to Sadie Keller, a 12-year-old who recently published a book about her experience, Better Angels.
We fight for these children’s futures. We fight for other people’s Sebastian. We fight for other parents, siblings, and friends who have been affected by this tragic disease.
To date SebastianStrong has raised over $1M to fund various research projects through our Discovery Science Awards, and thanks to the work of many tireless board members, loving supporters, and our Medical Advisory Board.
This week, Oscar is paddling in Castaways Against Cancer, kayaking from Miami to Key West, in the name of pediatric cancer. The paddle takes seven days, covers 160 miles, and has raised over $300k for children in the past three years. This year, every dollar raised will be matched by the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.
I am proud to be a member of Team Neocova, which is a dedicated supporter of SebastianStrong, Oscar, and of the Castaways. If you’d like to learn more, donate, or get involved, visit www.sebastianstrong.org or for a quick video, click here.
Written by Chief Innovation Officer & Co-founder Kelsey Weaver.