New executive director says his life led him to Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation
Corey Pahanish’s life path hasn’t exactly been smooth, but the bumpy road led him right to Santa Barbara and a new job with the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation.
The life of the young volunteer began just south of Detroit.
He grew up in a single mother home after his father died in a tragic car accident. Mr. Pahanish was 10 months old and also in the car, and his survival was considered a miracle.
“The subsequent years certainly didn’t feel like a miracle,” Dr. Pahanish told the News-Press.
He and his mother endured symptoms of poverty, including homelessness, and his grades as a student suffered because of it.
He said he “barely” graduated high school with a 1.4 GPA, which ruled out his chances of becoming a first-generation college graduate, and he couldn’t get into the military either due to a punctured eardrum “that never got treated because we didn’t have insurance.”
So, Dr. Pahanish said he put everything on a credit card and moved out to California, landing in San Diego where he volunteered with an organization that provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities.
He said it was a population that he has “always had a special place in my heart for and advocated for for a long time.”
This led to his first job in the nonprofit sector in 2004, running a grant to lower the rate of recidivism among that population. He then met a mentor who pushed him to go to college, and Dr. Pahanish got his paralegal master’s and doctorate from the University of San Diego.
He taught a class for social workers part time while becoming the executive director of Bayside Community Center, a nonprofit lifting up those struggling in Linda Vista, one of San Diego’s most economically stressed neighborhoods.
The executive director raised millions of dollars in a short time period for the neighborhood, built a brand new education facility and community center and ultimately got the organization to reach financial stability.
Then, about a month ago, Dr. Pahanish’s mother passed away from cancer, along with a few of his friends.
“I’m a man of faith, and as I was discerning my career path, it was a sign,” he said. “That made this a very easy decision.”
Dr. Pahanish sees his new position as executive director of the Teddy Bear Cancer Foundation as an opportunity to “leverage my personal experience and my professional and academic expertise.” He succeeds Lindsey Leonard, who left the foundation to serve as the executive director of the Alzheimer’s Association, California Central Coast Chapter.
“This is a growth opportunity,” Mr. Pahanish said about his new role. “This is an opportunity to understand with empathy the plight of families who have a child with pediatric cancer. This is an opportunity to enhance the work that’s already been done and to contribute to the strong reputation TBCF already has.”
As the new executive director, Dr. Pahanish hopes to expand services geographically, increase funding to families, explore adding new programs and expand the donor base both geographically and on a larger scale, in hopes of some endowments.
“The financial needs of families are only growing, especially in our current economy,” he said. “I’m a firm believer that it takes a village, so the more people we have that are involved and supporting the organization, the stronger we are as an organization.
“I really look forward to coming into this role operating with transparency but also with a collaborative spirit.”