Ask a Volunteer: Tyson Olcott
by Tyson Olcott (’13, MSC ’17)
Cancer sucks and I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. Cancer has a way of taking people out of your life and changing it forever. Holidays, celebrations, and even daily activities can feel as though there’s a void when you lose a loved one.
The very first Thanksgiving without my grandfather was difficult. I will always associate Thanksgiving with my grandfather, or Pop, as I called him. Pop was meticulous about his turkey, his ham, and his prime rib. Every year he spent hours calculating and testing the best way to cook the main dish.
As a vegetarian, I couldn’t care less about the main dish, but what made it so special was the fact that Pop spent hours cooking for others. So after his passing in the spring of 2015, I knew the approaching holiday season would be a hard one for my family. I wanted to find a way that year to help take my family’s mind off missing my grandfather and give back to those in need.
I was fortunate enough to be able to connect with The Hope Lodge through the Westminster network. It was thanks to former staff members and fellow alumni that my family and I began our volunteer work with the American Cancer Society. Westminster was key in making our first Thanksgiving without Pop special.
The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. The American Cancer Society opened the doors to their brand new Salt Lake City Hope Lodge in October of 2015. The Hope Lodge program provides a free home away from home for cancer patients and their caregivers. It is more than just a residential facility: it’s a nurturing community. The minute you walk into Hope Lodge you’re filled with an overwhelming sense of comfort, which radiates through the residents themselves.
I never really believed in synchronicity until that Thanksgiving. As my family and I were helping “cook up hope,” one resident came into the kitchen and began prepping the turkey. This man reminded my family and me so much of my Pop; it was unreal. It was as if we got to spend Thanksgiving with him again. The gift we received as a family was far greater than the one we gave. That day will forever be in our hearts.
The Westminster network’s spirit of giving back paid off again at the beginning of 2018, when I was approached by the American Cancer Society to host and lead their first-ever benefit concert in downtown Salt Lake City. Thanks to my Westminster network, I was able to recruit volunteers and committee members to help make the concert a huge success for the organization. The “Big Gig” was a unique event that raised thousands of dollars for the Hope Lodge, along with funding transportation for patients undergoing treatment at some of our top cancer research institutes in Salt Lake.
From hosting benefit concerts, to Cooking Up Hope on Thanksgiving, we cherish and honor the life of my grandfather by giving back each year. Without the support and connections of the Westminster network, our meaningful work with the Cancer Society would never have happened, or been as successful.
Visit cancer.org to learn more about how you can get involved with the American Cancer Society.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster College’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.