A teen from Bayside proves that you’re never too young to make a difference.
Since the beginning of October, Ashtin Reich has been wearing pink every day as part of the American Cancer Society’s Real Men Wear Pink Campaign, which aims to get more men involved in the fight against breast cancer.
He first became involved in the campaign after his mom Jennifer was diagnosed with cancer earlier this year. Though Jennifer underwent chemo and is expected to make a full recovery, Reich wanted to raise awareness in honor of his mom and the other people in his life who have been directly affected by cancer, including his grandmother and great aunt.
Reich’s goal is to raise $2,500 or more, which will go toward supporting breast cancer research and patient service programs with the ACS. To date, the teen said he has raised nearly $500 but has also been selling breast cancer pens and a shirt he designed to raise money.
“I decided on a black shirt with a pink ribbon on it and on the back are the words ‘overcome through courage and strength,'” said Reich. Each of the words includes a pink letter that spells out the word “cure.”
The Benjamin Cardozo High School sophomore shared that he has made $1,500 in combined sales from the shirts and pens. He said that most of his sales have been made through his school and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization which maintains an active social media network. As the president of a regional chapter of BBYO, Reich said that thousands are able to see his fundraising posts.
According to the ACS, Reich is the youngest Real Men Wear Pink participant in New York City, a fact that does not surprise the Bayside teen.
“It didn’t shock me as much, but I thought the age gap would be much less,” said Reich, who added that many young people may not be “aware of their surroundings.” But Reich said that he wants to spread awareness that men can be diagnosed with breast cancer too, though it is not as common.
“It’s so inspiring to see someone Ashtin’s age get involved in this campaign. Teenagers have very busy lives with many competing priorities — and, understandably, philanthropy isn’t always at the top of that list,” said Ashley Engelman, director of communications for the American Cancer Society. “But young people have enormous potential when it comes to fundraising and advocating for a cause. So to see Ashtin not only volunteer but take on a true leadership role in the fight to end breast cancer as one of our Real Men Wear Pink candidates, gives me so much hope for the future.”
Reich said that wearing pink every day has not been much of a stretch for him since it’s a color that he has enjoyed wearing all his life. He said that most people think it’s “really cool” but he has had some people make snide comments about his wardrobe.
“Usually it’s someone who isn’t educated about things that are going on,” said Reich, who will usually explain his pink threads to those out of the loop.
This Sunday, Oct. 21, Reich will walk in the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk at Flushing Meadows-Corona Park with family members, members from BBYO and some of his sports teammates from school. The week before on Oct. 14, he gave a speech at the breast cancer walk in Central Park where he talked about how a cancer diagnosis affects the people in one’s life.
The teen has a message for other young people who want to get involved: “You’re never too young to make a positive influence on anyone else or anything, even if it’s a small influence.”
It’s not too late to join the Real Men Wear Pink campaign. For more information, visit cancer.org or call 800-227-2345.