Ashley Petersen of Houston is a licensed individual and family therapist who enjoys serving on the Advance Team, MD Anderson’s next-generation volunteer advisory board. In 2018, she and her husband, Chris, supported the Boot Walk to End Cancer® by creating Team Petersen and raising more than $30,000 for the cancer center with the help of friends and family. Ashley and Chris are co-chairs of this year’s Boot Walk. They are the proud parents of two daughters, Ella, 10, and Scarlett, 7.
What three words best describe you?
Loyal, passionate, determined.
How long have you been a member of the Advance Team?
I have had the pleasure of being a member of the Advance Team for one year. It is a leadership role that I take seriously. I envision making a positive impact in the community in the areas of education, prevention and fundraising for cancer research.
How do you like to spend your spare time?
My hobbies and interests include anything that brings joy to my life: gardening, physical fitness, being a good mom/friend/wife and lending a voice for a cause that is important to me. Chris and I are die-hard Red Raiders and love watching Texas Tech football. We also are animal lovers and have two dogs and a brand new bunny, Coco. I am an individual and family therapist by trade, and I firmly believe that surviving in our world today is tough. When I think about those who are fighting to survive cancer or trying to recover from addiction or mental illness, it’s a driver for me to take action.
How did you come to have an interest in volunteerism, particularly on behalf of MD Anderson?
My interest in becoming a volunteer began while I was a student at Texas Tech University. I knew I needed to become involved with causes I believed in. My professor, mentor and friend, Dr. Kitty Harris, associate dean for outreach and engagement, said, “The secret to life is being of service to others and having a grateful heart each and every day.” I found another powerful influence in my in-laws’ grace and willingness to help others. My involvement with MD Anderson started with a phone call from a dear friend, former Advance Team member and the 2018 Boot Walk co-chair, Ashley Loeffler, who knew I was involved with the volunteer fundraising branch of the American Cancer Society and had a passion for this cause.
Has cancer touched your life?
Cancer has impacted my life in numerous ways. While I feel very fortunate not to have been diagnosed with cancer thus far in my life, I have watched many loved ones around me suffer. When you have had to sit with someone you love who is suffering and talk about making funeral arrangements as a precaution, it will change your life. When your friend asks you to help shave their head while they are sobbing and can’t do it, it changes you forever.
What do you and your husband hope to accomplish as co-chairs of the Boot Walk?
Our vision for this year’s Boot Walk is simple: We want to break records on funds raised. We have two main goals. First, we want to continue to strengthen our relationships with our past sponsors, who have been amazing in helping make our event so successful. We want to challenge our local corporations and businesses to unite in supporting the Boot Walk. Our other goal is to engage our local elementary, middle and high schools in philanthropy and raising awareness to help make an impact on others. Our children are the future, and it is up to us to show them the way.
What has been most fulfilling during your time on the Advance Team?
The people are what make MD Anderson so special. It is apparent that each person on the Advance Team is there because of a personal desire to help. We all have been impacted in a significant way by cancer, and we want to make a difference.
What values do you feel are most important in today’s world?
I believe it’s important to find a purpose for your life, nurture a heart of gratitude, find a power greater than yourself and let those around you know that you love them.
What motivates you in Making Cancer History® and advancing MD Anderson’s mission to end cancer?
Having the possibility that my children could be spared from this disease, entirely.