Having worked in the office of her father’s pediatric practice and as a candy striper in her local hospital, Sandy Samberg was inspired to become a pediatric nurse practitioner, a career that prepared her for her current role as the executive director of SOUL RYEDERS®, a nonprofit organization that offers practical resources and nurturing support services to those affected by cancer. ln 2006 — one year after undergoing open-heart surgery — Samberg participated in a 39-mile Avon Walk to raise funds for cancer research. The experience inspired her to organize a team of women from Rye to walk again the following year. The walk was rewarding, but Samberg realized that while the money they raised was “a drop in the bucket for breast cancer research,” it would go a long way toward helping cancer-stricken friends and neighbors deal with their disease. This realization led Samberg to cofound SOUL RYEDERS®, originally founded to help those with breast cancer and has since expanded to include all cancers .
Her background in healthcare, along with her experience as a cardiac patient, seem to have given Samberg an unerring ability to envision the kinds of services that SOUL RYEDERS® clients want and need. Among the programs she has helped work to develop are The Wig Exchange, in which wigs from women who no longer need them are lent to clients currently going through chemotherapy, and Mondays with SOUL RYEDERS®, a program that offers clients some much-deserved pampering, with complimentary manicures, wig-styling, and massage. These services, as well as yoga classes taught by cancer survivors, encourage lasting friendships, as the women who attend them often stay in touch and support each other throughout their illnesses.
Part of the nonprofit’s mission is to provide meaningful community service opportunities for people who want to become volunteers. Samberg acknowledges that it can be challenging to deal with cancer, but, as she says, “If you can be a ray of sunshine for someone going through a really dark time, how special is that?”