Vince Hopkins wears a red bracelet on his right wrist. It peeks out occasionally from under the cuff of his shirt, without being too conspicuous. From the Southern Ohio Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the bracelet reads “Relentless,” a word that neatly captures Hopkins’ dedication to volunteerism and service.
“I never really set out to do all kinds of volunteer work, but one thing led to another, and everything evolved,” says Hopkins, Xavier’s regional director for development for the Cincinnati region.
Hopkins launched his professional career in development and fundraising for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. At Xavier, he is currently engaged in working on the “To See Great Wonders” capital campaign, and also works with annual fund donors at The 1831 Society level.
Hopkins lives in Mason and has long been active in a variety of church and community activities: coaching youth football at St. Susanna Catholic School, raising money for St. Susanna Parish fundraisers and campaigns, and volunteering with Our Daily Bread soup kitchen. When his brother-in-law was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma, Hopkins ran a marathon to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in 1998.
“My mother-in-law’s 70th birthday was coming up, and she just wanted us to go out and do something nice for somebody,” he recalls. “I ran this marathon for my brother-in-law, Dan Riestenberg, and for her, raising about $12,000. Dan passed away before the race, so it was bittersweet to run. Dan’s wife got very involved with Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and she asked me to help out with the Man and Woman of the Year Event in 2003. Ironically, I actually ended up winning.”
After winning the award, Hopkins began serving as a board member and chair for the Man and Woman of the Year campaign. “Something was telling me that I needed to keep being involved and do all I could to raise money so there would eventually be cures for leukemia,” he says.
What Hopkins didn’t count on was the ironic twist his story was about to take. In October 2005, he was diagnosed with follicular lymphoma, and found himself fighting both a personal and public battle against leukemia and lymphoma diseases.
“I was very glad that I’d done what I’d done for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. I knew I had been proactive in their cause, and it came full circle back to me.”
Even with the moral support of society, Hopkins still felt the harsh realization of being on “both sides” of cancer. But he found many sources of empathy and inspiration.
“I was coaching football at the time, and the kids were great,” Hopkins says. “They got it. These fifth and sixth-grade boys all wore the ‘Relentless’ wristbands from the society, and we made that our team goal, to be relentless in every game.” And Hopkins continued to move forward and involve himself with others. “There were a lot of days that I would come to Xavier and not do anything, but it was better being here than being at home by myself. I’d rather be interactive with folks.” That sense of continued involvement included, of course, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Now, in addition to campaigning and persuading his colleagues and friends—particularly those who have showed interest in the society’s cause—Hopkins is training for America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride, set to take place June 1 in Lake Tahoe, Nev. Hopkins and fellow society supporters hope to help reach the ambitious goal of curing blood cancers by 2015, and this ride is part of that effort.
“It’s great because half of these people I’m riding with have a connection to what the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is about,” said Hopkins. “They might have a child or brother or husband affected by leukemia. Then there is a group of people who have the time on their hands and are willing to commit to something, and they jump right into this and do tremendous things. It’s not like they’re getting anything other than the satisfaction of what they’re doing, and it’s neat to see that.”