We sat down with our CEO, Carla Tardif, in honor of her 10 year anniversary at Family Reach. Find out what the early years were like and the moments that have made her journey so special.
What was your first year on the job like?
I believed in the Family Reach mission the second I heard family founder Rick Morello talk about it. I knew I had found my home. Truth be told, I had no idea what I was in for! I was the only full-time person when I started. I instantly became the social worker assisting families, the operations department setting up back-end systems, the communications team trying to raise awareness and the event planner and fundraiser.
It was very personal for me. I’d do my personal grocery shopping and grab an extra cart to fill for families I knew didn’t have food. I offered my couch to a family that had sold theirs to pay a utility bill. I often went to the hospital to sit with a child I didn’t even know so a parent could go home and see their other children, take a shower and change clothes. I was in over my head! But looking back, entrenching myself in this mission is what has allowed me to completely understand the patient journey and develop ways to improve it.
How have things changed?
I’m not alone in this anymore. I have dedicated, brilliant minds across departments. This group has elevated Family Reach to the national level and put Family Reach on the map as a pioneer within the cancer community. We’re developing solutions for cancer-related financial toxicity in a way no one else is. From my ever-expanding Family Reach team to the plethora of impressive individuals who make up our Board of Directors, National Advisory board, Medical Advisory Board and Family, Womens, Reach Leaders and Reach Athletes Councils, I am surrounded by people who are as dedicated as I am to taking Family Reach to the top.
I’m no longer giving away the furniture in my home or dragging two carts around the grocery store. Instead, my team and I are partnered with over 300 hospitals nationwide to provide thousands of families with comprehensive support that keeps their cancer care on track and improves their chances of survival. We’ve supported over 80,000 individuals impacted by cancer to date.
What is it about this community that inspires you?
The variety of people involved. From CEOs to medical staff, hardcore athletes to student advocates, all find their home here. They take great comfort and pride in knowing they are part of a movement that is reaching families and changing lives. We work hard, we have fun, we are fearless in our approach and, best of all, we are in it together.
What is a favorite/special moment that stands out to you from the last 10 years?
One of my most special Family Reach moments was the day my husband drove me home from the hospital after having bilateral mastectomies and reconstructive surgery as a result of my breast cancer recurrence. I’ll never forget pulling up the driveway of my home and seeing a woman standing there with a bag of broth soup, special lotions and a card. She was there to help me into the house, settle me into the couch with pillows and a blanket and serve me the soup she had brought. This woman was Raquel, a single mom whose toddler, Mikalo, battled cancer twice. Our community ensured she had stable housing so her son could receive a live-saving bone marrow transplant. We were there during her time of need and, when I was in my own personal place of darkness, she was there for me.
We asked Raquel to share a note of gratitude to Carla in celebration of her 10 years of commitment to our families.
“Carla, it’s been a meaningful 10 years. They’ve gone by so fast! I’ve met hundreds of people in my lifetime, but no one lives up to you. I’ve learned a lot from you along the way. You are such a bright light, strong and wise. You have a beautiful heart, filled with purpose. We have formed a tight-knit bond that I truly cherish. Having you as a friend and mentor is the biggest form of love I have ever experienced. While I am deeply grateful for all Family Reach has done for Mikalo and me, one of the things I’m most grateful for is you! Congratulations on 10 years. Here’s to 10 more!” – Raquel and Mikalo