Reaching New Milestone, Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund Continues 'Working Day In and Day Out to Help Those in Need'
April 13, 2020 5:00 AM
by Patty Kleban
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In the face of so much sadness and illness and frustration with our current situation, there is so much goodness. There is goodness at the heart of people.

My columns this month are focusing on the goodness at the heart of people in these trying times.  From simple things like reaching out to an elderly neighbor to community-wide initiatives to support local businesses, the silver lining to this virus is that it is showing people are their best.

One of those community initiatives is the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund.  

Founded in 2006 in honor of State College native and Penn State graduate Bob Perks, the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund (BPCAF) provides financial assistance for living expenses, travel costs for treatments and other support for residents in Centre, Blair, Clearfield and Huntingdon counties who are diagnosed with cancer. Prior to losing his own battle with melanoma, Bob Perks had helped to establish the local chapter of Coaches Vs. Cancer. In his honor, friends and family, including his wife Doreen, established the fund to continue to help support local residents.  

In the current climate of shutdowns and quarantines and economic uncertainty, the Bob Perks Fund quietly noted that they had reached a new milestone: over $2 million dollars raised and distributed to families in need.

“There are no less people being diagnosed with cancer with everything that is going on,” said Doreen Perks. “In fact, with so many people out of work, we think the demand for help is going to skyrocket.”

Working closely with their healthcare providers, individuals receiving cancer treatment are referred to the BPCAF. Financial assistance is then provided for the individual in payments directly to utility companies, insurance companies, etc. Individuals undergoing treatment can also receive gift cards for gas, food or other travel expenses. Applications are reviewed by local volunteers who serve on the allocations committee.

“We have become a well-oiled machine,” said Perks. “We could not do it without the support of the health care providers who direct people to us. Our amazing volunteer allocations committee meets regularly to review applications. The commitment from our volunteers is really what makes it all work.”

Norma Keller, executive director of the BPCAF, joined the organization as part-time administrator in 2013. Keller, and two additional part-time employees, work from their homes to prepare applications, design and develop fundraisers and to work with various entities in the four counties that the fund serves.

“We always work from home,” said Keller. “For that reason, we haven’t skipped a beat in this time of shut downs. We are working day in and day out to help those in need.”

Keller came to the Perks Fund with over 35 years of experience working in nonprofits. After retiring as chief executive officer of the Centre County Youth Service Bureau, Keller has used her experience to help to grow the money raised to help people diagnosed with cancer.  Tasked with expanding their reach beyond Centre County, Keller and the staff and volunteers have done just that.

“This is the job of a lifetime,” said Keller. “I thought when I retired that I would take all of that nonprofit experience with me when I retired and here I am.”

Keller identified some key factors in helping to grow both the community served by the fund as well as the generous donations received to serve those in need. Decisions such as becoming a partner agency with the Huntingdon County United Way and inviting a board member from Huntingdon to participate have increased interaction in that county.  

“That has given us the road map for working with other counties,” said Keller. “In Clearfield County we are part of the Dubois Chamber of Commerce. Johnson Subaru of Dubois has been very generous. Of course, in Blair County, Sheetz is one of our biggest partners. We have also partnered with UPMC in Blair County. From there, things have just steamrolled.”

The BPCAF raises money through a variety of community events as well as donations from foundations, trusts, and memorial donations. Community events such as “Rock the 80s” at The State Theatre are annual fundraisers that people look forward to each year and for which tickets sell out quickly.

Individual donations are always welcome.

“This year we will lose a big piece with the coronavirus related cancelling of Hoops-A-Palooza, our three-on-three basketball tournament,” said Perks. “That is going to be a tough one for us. But we aren’t alone. Many nonprofits are hurting right now.”

“Hurting,” said Keller “in a time our community needs them the most.” 

Individuals who are interested in donating to the Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund can visit their website at

“The gist of what we do has always been the same,” said Perks. “When I sat in that conference room at Mount Nittany Medical Center with Aileen Galley and others back in 2006, I wasn’t thinking about how big it would get, we were simply looking to do something good.”

The Bob Perks Cancer Assistance Fund is definitely something good.


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