Cancer nonprofit founder says to dream big, ask for help along the way

Posted November 14, 2017 11:25 a.m. EST
Updated July 13, 2018 1:40 p.m. EDT

— When Peggy Carroll’s father was diagnosed with lung cancer, she describes her reaction as overwhelmingly motivated to help him fulfill his dreams.

“I had asked him specifically, ‘What is your bucket list?’” Carroll said. “And then I thought, one day I want to do this for other people too.”

In 2014, the dream became a reality when she founded the Fill Your Bucket List Foundation, based in Cary.

The organization grants wishes to adult cancer patients in North Carolina, with the goal to fulfill lifelong wishes and goals.

Since its founding, the team of 300 volunteers has fulfilled more than 50 North Carolinians’ wishes.

Carroll said the organization’s success has only been possible because of the Triangle’s tight-knit community and motivated volunteers.

“We’ve been so blessed by this community,” Carroll said. “I tell people all the time, the Triangle has been the perfect place to start the foundation. It’s a circle of angels helping other angels.”

In addition to the foundation, Carroll has worked 30 years in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries as an oncology patient advocate. She most recently joined Patient Alliances, LLC, as a managing partner.

“(The Foundation) is my heart, but through my work, I still get to help cancer patients every day, which is a blessing,” Carroll said.

The mother of two adult children has also executed many local and national cancer awareness campaigns such as the the Komen Race for the Cure and the Tour of Hope.

WRAL sat down with Carroll to discuss balancing multiple roles, finding your passion and the importance of community to individual success.

This conversation with Carroll was edited for clarity:

WRAL: It sounds like you have a passion for helping cancer patients. How did you develop that passion and turn it into a career?

PC: I actually had a friend pass away in college, and I didn’t realize it at the time, but that really shaped the direction of my life. We were so young, and I couldn’t comprehend even how hard that was on his family and friends, but I think it really ended up shaping my passion. And I was blessed that led to my career.

WRAL: How important for someone young is finding something that you love?

PC: You spend so much time working. So the closer you can get to something you love, the better. You also want to work in a job with people you like because you’re going to spend a lot of time with them.

I think it’s never too early to start exploring all the different options. Look for mentors and shadow people when you’re young to try to figure out what is something that you love. Always be open and know that things can change. Each experience molds you for the next experience in your life.

WRAL: How do you think your gender has affected your career?

PC: I think my gender definitely have allowed me to mentor other women and talk about how you can be a mom and have a successful career. You just have to surround yourself with a great support system. I’m also a single mom, so I’ve done all this by myself. It’s important to know that you can do it all, but you don’t have to be perfect at it all. I’m juggling multiple priorities every single day, so I surround myself with people who can help me.

WRAL: What are important qualities to have in launching a successful career?

PC: Flexibility is so important. You should be open to change and consider different opportunities because you never know what might be the next great fit. Dream big, because whatever you believe you can accomplish you absolutely can. I think sometimes we’re limited by what we believe we can do.

Ask for help. A lot of women are afraid to ask for help, but it’s not a sign of weakness. It’s a sign of community.

WRAL: What is your hope for the next generation of women?

PC: I hope that the next generation of women is empowered and realize that they have unlimited opportunities to be incredible family members, mothers and professionals without feeling so conflicted with their schedules.

WRAL: Do you think today’s companies support women?

PC: I think in my 35 years of working, it has improved dramatically. When I started, I was one of the few females even working at the company. I think it’s improving all the time. And I think companies are starting to “get it.”

And I always say look for companies who do “get it” because they are out there. You should be able to have all of your dreams.

WRAL: Do you feel having female leaders and voices in decision making is important?

PC: Absolutely. They bring a different mindset to the table and different experiences. I think diversity of any kind in a team is a blessing because you learn so much from each other, and you can carry out a lot of different perspectives in everything that you’re doing.