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Meet Greg Chastain of Voices of Hope in Lawrence

Today we’d like to introduce you to Greg Chastain.

So, before we jump into specific questions about the business, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
In 2009 I was cast in a local production of Aida. It was a bittersweet time for me, because my mother was coming to the end of her battle with pancreatic cancer and because she had always loved to watch me perform we were hoping she’d have the chance to see me onstage one last time. Sadly, she died a week before the show opened, and I left the cast to go home to Indiana to honor and mourn my mother. I was at loose ends, and the cast of Aida became a lifeline for me. They encouraged me to return to the show, offered me love and support, and made a place for me on-stage despite my time away. So I returned for the final weekend performance.

During that time cast members reached out to me to share their own stories of loss, and this was when I realized that the family I had found in the theater could be a source of great healing. We had all been touched by cancer, and all of us wished there were something we could do in the fight against this disease.

So I put together a “little show.” A “one-time” event. A concert in honor of my mom produced and performed by my closest friends, that was to raise money for cancer research. My theater family responded with an energy and commitment beyond my greatest expectation, and we were able to donate $17,000 to cancer research.

From that first performance, I knew this was too powerful to be a “one-time event.” We are now a nationally recognized non-profit, and our total contributions to cancer research have risen to over a half million dollars. We perform 2 MainStage shows annually as well as perform the National Anthem for all the major sports teams and local colleges. We have more than 150 active members, and many friends and allies who support us in our cause.

We support the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Target Therapies at the MGH Cancer Center who look for the answers for all types of cancers. They are an amazing team and we could not be prouder to support their efforts in this battle. I know my mom will be smiling down on me always as we continue to raise our Voices of Hope.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Being an “all-volunteer” organization does have its struggles. Since not one person receives a salary donate proceeds after theatrical expenses which means that every year we basically start at zero and we go out and look for those businesses and individuals who would like to support our mission through sponsorships and ads in our programs to keep us going financially so we can keep the ball moving forward and continue to raise the dollars to support the research. We have been fortunate to have found those folks each year thus far but every December/January my stomach churns waiting for those to come forward and help us once again. We were also homeless for quite some time until we found our studio in Lawrence and lived on the generosity of others to find space for or nomads of performers to rehearse our large cast! But 5 years ago we found our home at the Everett Mills in Lawrence and have not looked back.

Voices of Hope – what should we know? What do you guys do best? What sets you apart from the competition?
We are a 501c3 non-profit organization that raises funds for cancer research through theatrical performances. We hold two main stage shows a year at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, MA which are our biggest fundraisers while also supporting other organizations with our vocals and dance when asked.

I am most proud of the fact that this organization not only supports cancer research but has become a tight-knit community where people from all walks of life and talent can come to sing, dance, tech, build, paint or just support each other in their daily lives. Many of our members are cancer survivors or family members/friends of survivors or are there supporting the memory of loved ones they have lost to cancer. Cancer is a club nobody has asked to be in but we have become a family that not only works many hours to support our goals and mission but is there to support each member when they need it the most. And we have entire families that share in this loving family. Many tell us it is a second family that they love and can’t wait to get together each week.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success is hard to measure when you are supporting cancer research. There are so many peaks and valleys in this type of work and success is hard to measure. We currently donate all our funds to the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies at the MGH Cancer Center and a couple of times of year they come and share with us their success stories to help remind us why we are doing what we do. Those stories and knowing that you are making a difference by giving hope to those who need it the most is what I consider success.

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