A 25-Year Reflection: President & CEO Eric Richards

For the past 25 years, Cancer Support Community Central Indiana (CSC) has led the charge in Indiana to build a vibrant community of cancer survivors and their loved ones, providing relevant and highly personalized support when and where it is needed most.

In celebration of Cancer Support Community Central Indiana’s 25th Anniversary, we’ll share stories looking at our beginning, our present, and our future on the 25th of each month. We’ll celebrate the visionaries who started our journey, chronicle stories of our participants, and show the impact of our services. We’ll also explore our hopes and plans for the next 25 years and beyond.

This month we share some thoughts from President and CEO Eric Richards.

A Leader Like No Other

What does it take to be the CEO of an organization like Cancer Support Community? Motivation and drive…absolutely. A knack for strategy and fundraising…certainly doesn’t hurt. Budgeting wizardry…huge plus. But these are skill sets that belong to the higher-ups at any company or organization. At a place like CSC, where lives are impacted on a daily—and very intimate—basis, the position requires so much more.

Anyone who comes into contact with Eric Richards can immediately see the passion he has for CSC and our mission. As he is wont to say, “everyone has a cancer story,” and he is no exception. Having experienced the deaths of two of his grandparents to cancer when he was in his teens, he knows firsthand how the disease not only affects those who are diagnosed with it, but their loved ones, as well. Eric is a CEO who recognizes that compassion and empathy are what make an organization great, and he is proud that this mentality is reflected in every aspect of CSC. Over the past 7 years of his tenure, Eric and the CSC team have used that drive, passion, and commitment to the community to increase the organization’s footprint tenfold, growing operations to serve more than 10,000 people per year and expanding into a brand new facility.

And Then Came 2020…

What happens to an organization whose entire model is based on serving the community in person when “in person” is no longer an option? The COVID pandemic has been a huge blow to many non-profits, and the CSC team really had to think on its toes to create the same safe, supportive spaces online as had been offered in the physical locations. Eric is quick to say that witnessing that transition—the creativity involved in pivoting to solely virtual platforms within the space of a week—is one of his proudest moments to date.

“People still needed our support, and we needed to figure out how to serve them,” he said. “The tenacity of the staff in this unprecedented situation has been truly awe-inspiring.”

Hope for the Present and Future

People often ask Eric if CSC is a sad place because cancer is such a terrible disease that affects so many. When this topic comes up, he always talks about hope. CSC is a community that brings all kinds of people together to support each other through that sadness and fear and to create reasons to smile. CSC, he maintains, is a place that makes you appreciate the things around you and treat people with kindness and grace. All the stresses in life seem rather trivial when compared to that.

So, where does Eric see CSC heading in the next 25 years? He would love to see the organization grow even larger and more impactful. He wants to see CSC serving more than 25,000 people per year and partnering with every hospital in the area. He’d love to build more locations to serve more of the community, and he wants to become known for the Community Navigation program, which would meet communities of color where they live by ensuring everyone has access to cancer support, rent assistance, transportation, and healthy meals.

More than anything, he wants the organization to become a household name. To that end, he encourages everyone to share this series of stories over the next 12 months. Tell your family, your friends, your neighbors, your doctors—Cancer Support Community is here, we’re free, and we’re impacting lives on a daily basis.

One Final Word from Eric

“I just want to thank the thousands of people who have supported us over the past 25 years and have gotten us to where we are today. I can’t thank you enough, and I hope folks will continue to be generous with their time, talent, and treasure as we move into the future.”

Join Us for the Journey!

How have you been impacted by Cancer Support Community? We invite you to share your stories and memories by emailing info@cancersupportindy.org.

Thank you to our 25th Anniversary Celebration Sponsors!
  • Lilly Oncology
  • Tracy Haddad
  • Gary and Janet Stach
  • John, Cathy and Margaret Langham
  • Nicholas H. Noyes Jr. Memorial Foundation