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Article updated: 6/14/2013 9:54 PM

Gurnee native Matt Wessel's "Story of Hope" featured on American Cancer Society website

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At 16, Gurnee native Matt Wessel lost his father to brain cancer. Just a few years later, he watched a high school friend struggle with a cancer diagnosis. Inspired by their battles, Wessel, with the help of high school volunteers, launched Concert for Life in 2001 to benefit the American Cancer Society. Since then, the annual event has raised more than $357,000 for the Society in the fight against cancer.

Because of his strong commitment to the fight against cancer, Wessel's story will be one of "100 Stories of Hope" featured on the American Cancer Society website, to mark the organization's 100th Birthday. Over the course of 100 days, the Society will feature an inspirational story each day about a cancer survivor, volunteer, researcher or others from around the country who are making noise and taking action to finish the fight. Visit 100 Stories of Hope on cancer.org/fight to read the profiles.

On May 22, 2013, the Society began a yearlong celebration of 100 years of saving lives and creating a world with more birthdays. The Society is using the historic milestone as an opportunity to encourage everyone to participate in a Moment Against Silence by pledging to do one thing to help finish the fight against cancer, such as making a donation, enrolling in the research study called Cancer Prevention Study-3 to help better understand how to prevent cancer and making healthy choices to reduce cancer risk. For details, go to cancer.org/fight.

"The American Cancer Society has played a role in nearly every cancer research breakthrough in recent history," said Dr. John Seffrin, chief executive officer of the American Cancer Society. "Since 1913, we've helped save nearly 1.2 million lives. As the official sponsor of birthdays, we know how important each and every birthday is."

The Society has contributed to a 20 percent decline in cancer death rates in the United States since the early 1990s. Today, 2 out of 3 people diagnosed with cancer are surviving for at least five years. As a result, more than 400 people a day are celebrating birthdays that would have otherwise been lost to the disease. Even as the Society marks this momentous milestone, the focus remains on the ambitious undertaking that still lies ahead -- changing the statistics from 2 out of 3 people surviving cancer today in the U.S., to 3 out of 3 surviving.

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