Christopher Stephens


Just to clarify: the FDA would be upset if I claimed that eating pie fights cancer. However, I’m pretty confident that pies, if only they had the power of speech, would definitely be against cancer.

Founder, Pies Against Cancer

Location: New York, New York
What is Pies Against Cancer?

Pies Against Cancer is an annual fundraising event that benefits Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. I bake about a dozen pies, which my friends then “sponsor” for $31.42 each (ten times pi, a math joke). They either take home leftovers from the party or they arrange for me to bake them a pie at a later date. Thanksgiving is a popular time for redeeming pies, as you can imagine. This modern day bake sale model is actually pretty simple to replicate. There are plenty of charitable platforms for donations; all you need to add is something you enjoy preparing (cakes? pickles? But stay away from cookies – the Girl Scouts have that market wrapped up tight, and you don’t want to mess with Girl Scouts).

What motivated you to start it?

Originally I just wanted to have friends over to eat pie. I was invited to a colleague’s birthday party, and instead of bringing
presents, he asked that guests make a donation to a particular charity. I thought this was a great idea, so I adapted it for my own
pie-baking needs. The obvious charity to support was MSKCC, where my mother’s colon cancer was (successfully!) treated.

What impact have you seen over the six years of Pies Against Cancer?

I have raised thousands of dollars each year. Not hundreds of thousands, but last year I pushed past my goal of raising $2,000 for
the year, thanks to my generous friends.

What have you learned in the process of putting this together?

Planning is key. Baking a dozen pies in a Manhattan kitchen requires a great deal of coordination. Spreadsheets are involved. Also, the easier you make it for people to donate, the easier it is to raise money. MSKCC has a powerful fundraising department; they have a great webpage template that makes the donation/tax-deduction receipt process seamless. Finally, keep it simple. People have suggested that I branch out and add some savory pies to the line-up, but that would mean a second set of plates, finding a way to keep the pies warm during the party, and navigating a whole new set of food allergies/preferences,
etc. I also limit the beverages. It turns out that offering either mulled cider or prosecco covers pretty much everyone at a winter-time party.

You work full-time in another job. What’s your advice to those who want to pursue community service outside of their day jobs?

First, shoot for achievable goals. There are only so many hours in the day, and it will be more effective and more rewarding to host a smaller, successful event than a sprawling monster that might raise lots of money but could be a costly, painful mess. Second, get help. In my case, MSKCC handles the money. Mom comes to stay and helps tidy
the house and pour the drinks.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Just to clarify: the FDA would be upset if I claimed that eating pie fights cancer. However, I’m pretty confident that pies, if only they had the power of speech, would definitely be against cancer.


Claire Stack

About

Claire Stack is a events and volunteer management professional working in higher education and based in New York City. Claire is a graduate of Cornell University with a degree in Theater and Psychology. She is passionate about women's causes, the arts, and education.


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