Nearly every Thursday for the past four years, Brandon Spillett ’05 has made the short drive from his home in East Syracuse to the Upstate Cancer Center on Adams Street. Once there, Spillett makes the rounds, checking in on patients. They talk, play cards and, perhaps most important, sit together quietly. Spillett is not a doctor. He is the founder of Room2Smile
, a charitable organization whose aim is to provide comfort to cancer patients and their families.
A business administration major on the Heights, Spillett founded Room2Smile in 2012, seven years after his father, Dan, died following a long battle with brain cancer. In that time, the elder Spillett underwent numerous surgeries and treatments at Upstate Medical University, yet never lost his smile or his positive spirit. In fact, Brandon watched his father, a well-respected lacrosse coach, reach out to other patients during his radiation treatments, oncology appointments and on his hospital floor, inspiring them, listening to them and offering them hope. He showed his son how important even the briefest, most ordinary encounter could be.
Today Room2Smile represents “the power of reaching out to others with a simple smile and caring conversation.” It is a family operation, run by Brandon, who also works full time in sales for Ryan Homes, his mother, Julie, and sister, Sarah, along with several close friends, including Le Moyne alumni. In many ways, Room2Smile grew from the simple acts of kindness that Dan exhibited throughout his life. Its aim is to ensure that his example lives on in the Upstate Cancer Center. Patients and their families may see a volunteer walking up and down the hallways with the organization’s comfort cart, which is stocked with items like books, cards and lotion to make recipients feel more at home. Individuals who have recently received a cancer diagnosis receive a smile support package, which is customized for them. By visiting the patients, Brandon also has an opportunity to talk to them about services and support that are available to them locally.
Like his father, Brandon has a passion for lacrosse. He was a two-time All-American at Le Moyne, recording 112 goals, 73 assists and 185 points during his career on the Heights. In 2004, he was named the Most Outstanding Player during the championship game against Limestone. When he established Room2Smile, it seemed only natural to involve his alma mater and, especially, his former team. In 2013, with the support of athletic department, including Coach Dan Sheehan and his former teammates, Brandon established the Room2Smile Fall Classic. Top-tier lacrosse teams, including Le Moyne, Onondaga Community College and Rochester Institute of Technology, play free of charge to spectators, and raise funds for Room2Smile through donations and sale of T-shirts. To date, they have generated more than $14,000 in support of the organization.
As for the future, Brandon hopes that Room2Smile will be able to continue to demonstrate the hope and optimism that his father did throughout his life.
“When you walk into a patient’s room, you never know who you are going to meet or what that person may be going through,” he said. “The most important thing you can do is to be present and listen and, hopefully, to put a smile on his or her face.”