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2011 Threads of Hope

Threads of Hope awards honor those who go out of their way to lend a helping hand.


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As the song says, we all need somebody to lean on. Fortunately, as Diablo has discovered time and again since we started presenting our Threads of Hope Awards in 1995, the East Bay is full of selfless, compassionate people who are there to lend a hand. Whether they’re donating school supplies or baby clothes to less fortunate children, offering a welcoming smile to cancer patients, getting homeless people off the streets, or raising environmental awareness, these volunteers offer a reminder that even one person can really make a difference.

The Judges/

Jessica Aguirre, weeknight coanchor, NBC Bay Area’s 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news, and host of Class Action, a weekly show about education. Mark Flowers, senior vice president, regional director, Wells Fargo Private Bank. Stephen Lesher, vice president, Dean and Margaret Lesher Foundation, and manager of sustainable development, Shell Oil Company. Karla McCormick, program director, Volunteer Center of the East Bay. Carole Wynstra, board president, Diablo Theatre Company.

Walnut Creek

Sam Sirott

California Cancer and Research Institute Help Desk


Photography By Shaun Fenn

If Sam Sirott feels awkward advising women four times his age on appropriate dress and cell phone manners, he does a good job of hiding it. The 17-year-old speaks with only the slightest of nervous stumbles as he gives an orientation to three volunteers for the concierge desk at the California Cancer and Research Institute in
Pleasant Hill. Sirott set up the information desk 18 months ago so that new cancer patients visiting the institute would find informational materials from the American Cancer Society, directions to doctors’ offices, and most importantly, a smiling volunteer’s face.   

“If you’re facing cancer, it can be really scary, so it helps to just have a friendly face in the lobby—someone smiling to say hi and give you that little bit of direction if you need it,” Sirott says.

Sirott came up with the idea from volunteering at his father’s oncology practice inside the Pleasant Hill Medical Institute and hearing his dad complain that patients couldn’t find his office once they entered the building. Sirott drew additional inspiration from watching his grandmother undergo various medical treatments.

“I just know that if she had to come in here by herself, she would be totally lost, so that really gave me something to relate to,” he says.
What Sirott initially thought would be a summer project has turned into a year-round commitment: scheduling, training, and recruiting volunteers—a commitment the Las Lomas High senior must juggle along with academics and athletics. Still, Sirott is proud of what he’s accomplished and plans to hand off stewardship of the program to another volunteer before heading for college next year. He’ll be leaving many inspired people behind.

“It’s so impressive that he managed to pull all of this together,” says Sandy Goldberg, Diablo Valley Oncology’s outreach manager, who helped Sirott start the concierge desk. “He’s really very organized, very composed, and very mature for his age.”

How you can help: To volunteer at the California Cancer and Research Institute’s information desk, e-mail Sam Sirott at ca.cancer.institute.volunteer@gmail.com.

 —Ethan Fletcher

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