Actress Nancy Allen Finds New Passion as Cancer Advocate

Nancy Allen began her acting career in commercials and went on to score roles in big films including "Carrie," "Blow Out," and "Robocop. She was even nominated for a Golden Globe for her role in the movie, "Dressed to Kill." But a request from a good friend--and cancer survivor--changed her path in life.

"If someone had said to me, you know, at some point in your life you're going to be a program director and then an executive director at a cancer support center, I would have said it's never happening ... I know nothing about that," said Allen. "But everything in my life led me to being right here today. "

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Allen's friend, Wendie, is a cancer survivor, and asked for her help in starting a cancer support center. "It was a time in my life where, I think, I was getting not tired of acting, but tired of the business of it all. And I needed something that had a little more purpose. We would meet here everyday and make phone calls, and we'd dream, we'd collaborate." Allen quickly became the creative program director for the center, WeSpark, which officially launched in 2001. Today, Nancy has left acting behind and is the executive director of the organization.

When WeSpark opened, it had two support groups: a cancer support group and a caregiver's group. Today, the center has a full daily schedule, which includes those same groups along with new ones for teens and children who have a parent with cancer. WeSpark also offers yoga lessons, movement classes, and art classes like jewelry making. "Everything here is free," said Allen. "We just want to make it so that everybody can come here, no matter what."

Allen first worked part time at WeSpark while she continued to pursue acting roles. Over time, she felt the pull away from acting to spend more time at WeSpark. "My passion that I had had for acting had really started to dissolve," she said. "And I had this new passion and this new purpose. It was the new place that I belonged."

To Allen, her reward is when she sees the impact of WeSpark, and how the center helps cancer patients, survivors, and their loved ones through the healing process. "People walk in and you just see them take a deep breath and go, oh, you know, you see them happier," she said. "You see them lighter. And I guess at the end of the day when I go home at night, no matter how tired I am, I feel that I've done something that's, I can feel good about and proud of."

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