Michael Brill: A Volunteer Superhero Using Community to Fight Cancer

Chapter 1: The Face of a Modern Superhero

In a world where heroes live on a movie screen and often wear capes and masks, Michael Brill stands out as a different kind of champion, but a hero, nonetheless.

With a heart as big as the sky, he's the kind of person who makes you believe in the goodness of humanity. But Michael's story isn't about flashy deeds or grand gestures; it's about the quiet strength and the resolve of a man who has faced adversity with courage and grace, lives to talk about it, and plans to vanquish the enemy someday once and for all.

From a boy overcoming a powerful diagnosis to the tireless volunteer superhero advocate for kids fighting the same monstrous enemy; Michael's journey is a testament to the transformative power of endless compassion and a tight-knit, positive community that fought for him every step of the way.

 

Chapter 2: Michael Faces the Enemy Head On

“It was the summer when I was about to turn 9 years old, and I was having some stomach issues. That’s when they found a tumor in my colon. It was Labor Day Week and I remember I went to the doctor's office. I was talking to my dad about the Yankees. They were about to go to the playoffs. And the doctor looks at me, he's like, “you have a disease, you have cancer.”

The enemy was cancer. Michael, it seemed, was its next victim.

"It was tough. The sickness that you get from chemotherapy is very different than a sickness that you have with colds, right? Like it's just a different level. " Michael recalled. “But my parents were so supportive, and the family was so supportive, and the community was so supportive. That made such an impact.”

By March of the following year, Michael had finished chemotherapy, and the doctor removed his catheter, “…It’s little wires right here,” Michael pointed to his chest across from his heart, “it’s like a foreign body is coming out of you.”

Michael’s doctor told him to return to school, noticeably confident that the enemy had been defeated, “you're not gonna think about cancer anymore. Just keep that in your mind.”

Michael remembers those words so distinctly and he remembers trying NOT to think about it. Even 25 years later and completely cancer-free, Michael still can’t help but think about it from time to time, yet he has found a way to compartmentalize it and allows it to act as a springboard for greater achievement in his life. And, boy, has he ever achieved remarkable things to this point in his life.

 

Chapter 3: Introducing Michael Brill

Michael Brill was born and raised in Katonah, NY in Westchester County, the only son to two incredible parents. Today, he lives in New York City. By day, he works as a Vice President at Goldman Sachs. By night, Michael Brill suits up and fights bad guys to help kids like him that deserve to live a better life, live it as peacefully as possible. No, Michael is not a superhero, nor would you catch him within a hundred miles of an aerodynamically-sound spandex suit, but Michael has devoted his life to ridding the world of a true enemy, one he faced head on and defeated as a child, cancer.

“If this is 1940, I likely wouldn't be here. Part of the reason I work in finance is because hopefully one day I will be successful enough to make a serious monetary impact that could really help eradicate pediatric cancer. And until then I will continue to help with the House.”

 

Chapter 4: Ronald McDonald House New York

The House that Michael is talking about is Ronald McDonald House New York. This small 95-room hotel-like House is a part of a larger non-profit system that was started 50 years ago in Philadelphia. It was the brainchild of Dr. Audrey Evans and a Philadelphia Eagles football player. With a seed grant from the McDonalds’ Corporation, they started a House that would help families with kids in the hospital fighting cancer stay close to their kid without having to financially implode doing so.

The fourth House, built by the same organization, opened five years later in a building on the Upper East Side of New York City, close to many of the city’s world-renowned hospitals.

45 years later, Ronald McDonald House New York has evolved into a home away from home for so many families with children fighting pediatric cancer and so many other life-threatening illnesses. Ronald McDonald House New York offers these families a safe place to sleep at night, three healthy meals a day, programs that range from wellness services for families and caregivers or a host of children’s enrichment activities and classes built to educate and entertain.

The House even sees to it that each family does not worry about how they will get to and from the hospital for treatment. A ride service is always a few minutes away to transport them to and from the hospital. RMH-NY (Ronald McDonald House New York) (Ronald McDonald House New York) takes care of everything essential, so that caregivers and families can focus on the only thing that matters: their child.

 

Chapter 5: Michael Meets the House

Michael's journey to RMH-NY was serendipitous, sparked by a chance encounter at a Greek Orthodox holiday party. Hearing the story of a family whose child had been supported by RMH-NY during their cancer treatment, Michael felt a deep resonance with his own childhood experience battling cancer. Michael found a sense of purpose in the idea of working with the House, believing this could be the place where he begins to take down the enemy once and for all.

 

Members of the RMH-NY Board of Associates

Chapter 6: RMH-NY Chair of the Board of Associates

Eight years later, Michael has become the Chair of the Board of Associates, leading about 30 individuals, who also have some beef with our enemy, in raising a generous sum of money on an annual basis through their annual Masquerade, and many smaller fundraising events including a bowling night, Pilates (with a purpose), and various happy hours. Michael, along with his band of enemy-fighting superheroes, focuses their efforts on awareness as well, working to bring a younger generation of philanthropists in line with the House’s mission.

The Board of Associates is a group of like-minded individuals who support the House by providing funds, sharing resources, and dedicating time and energy to the House and its kids and their families. 

Michael says it better, “We host events throughout the year that are focused on fundraising. But we also partner with the House to host dinners, we do different volunteer events. We're really focused on bringing awareness and engagement to the House. And we use our networks to bring people to the House to see the special place.”

A Masquerade Gallery

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 7: The Tangible Impact

For Michael, the importance of giving to RMH-NY lies in its tangible impact on families in need. Every dollar donated directly supports families facing medical crises, providing them with a safe and supportive environment during their darkest days.

Michael speaks to the House’s impact, “…that until you come here, you can't fully experience what it is doing for the community and how it has such a positive impact on families that are going through some of the toughest times they'll ever go through.”

Through volunteering and fundraising efforts, Michael has seen the transformative power of community at RMH-NY. Families come together, supporting one another through difficult times and finding moments of joy amidst adversity.

He continued, “You walk down 73rd street and you see this unassuming building and you walk in a ton of rooms of sick children and their families, and you can see where your dollar is going. It is going right to the house, it is helping a family right now, and you know that your dollar has had a direct impact on that family and that kid.”

Reflecting on his own journey with cancer, Michael emphasizes the importance of positivity and trust in one's support system. Every person's journey is unique, and maintaining a positive mindset can make all the difference in overcoming adversity.

It’s a good thing that Michael’s superhero powers do just that. Michael creates positivity wherever he goes and growing up with such a devoted support system to help him, he is using his superpowers to make certain that these kids fighting the same horrible enemy he did remain close to their families. This is so important to Michael and is central to the mission at Ronald McDonald House New York.

 

Chapter 8: Superhero For a Day

It would come as no surprise that late in the Spring, Michael and the Board of Associates are intricate in the creation of a particularly important day at Ronald McDonald House New York called Superhero for a Day. Fitting, right?

Michael gives a Superhero’s overview of Superhero for a Day, “Superhero Day is when all the kids dress up, they're able to put on capes, we help them shape up their capes and they be whoever they look up to be in cartoons and other different magazines and stuff.”

The House provides real life superheroes like Superman and Superwoman who come in and hang out with the kids for the afternoon and evening, help them make their own capes or crowns or whatever, and make them feel larger than life for a day.

Superhero for a Day has been a tremendous success for the House in recent years. You might recall Denise, a single mother of three, staying at the House for her daughter who was fighting cancer. Denise also had a four-year-old boy named Tyrone who lived with Autism. It was on Superhero Day that the boy met his idol Batman and spoke for the very first time.

Listen to Denise’s firsthand account of the story here:

Read Denise’s Family Story here

With something as life-altering and moving as Superhero for a Day, it is not a surprise that you would find Michael Brill and his Board of Associates somewhere close volunteering their time and donating their money to bring it to life.

 

Chapter 9: What The Future Holds

Looking ahead, Michael envisions a future where his connection to RMH-NY remains steadfast, transcending geographical boundaries and generations. His hope is to continue growing in his involvement with the House, inspiring others to join the cause and make a meaningful impact on the lives of families in need.

“Even if I move from New York, this is something that will always be a pillar of my life. big or small. This has been foundational to who I am. And I don't want to give that up. What do I hope to achieve looking forward? I hope to be the chair of the board of directors at some point. But I hope to continually grow in my awareness and engagement. I hope that when I have a family, my kids are also involved with the house. and, and understand the positivity of it.”

Michael’s final stop, as he predicted from the beginning was to rid the world of the enemy altogether, to see to it that pediatric cancer is no longer a killer of any child. He knows that with the work he is doing at RMH-NY, alongside the work of so many doctors like his own and the superhero team at Memorial Sloan Kettering, that together they will all conquer the enemy and put pediatric cancer to bed for the last time.

Chapter 10: The Power of Community

In the end, Michael's journey is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the power of community to uplift and support those in need. Ronald McDonald House New York serves as a safe place for families facing medical crises, thanks to the unwavering dedication of individual superheroes like Michael Brill and the countless volunteers and supporters who stand by their side.

As Michael eloquently states, "Ronald McDonald House New York is more than a house. It's honestly indescribable. It is a place where people come together to help when families are struggling the most, and being at the House, you can understand the community and you can feel the power it has in making more of a positive impact on these families."

Help Michael in his quest by donating to the House and giving families with kids battling cancer and other life-threatening illnesses a way to stay together and continue to hold a tangible hope for tomorrow.


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