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Meet Your Community

Sharing your inspirational stories brings us together and helps our community recognize we are not alone in this journey.  

A group of people doing high-fives
Ryan Pessah and his dad Benjamin

Ryan Pessah

Ryan Pessah’s passion for educating men about prostate cancer came after tragically losing his dad to the disease. Ryan founded Hops and Handlebars with his wife, Anna, an innovative fundraiser that brings together the Sacramento, California, community in the name of prostate cancer awareness. Hops and Handlebars raise incredible support to advance ZERO’s mission by hosting monthly, family-friendly events at local breweries. 

Not only is Ryan a dedicated fundraiser, ZERO Champion, and proponent of early detection, but he’s also a committed prostate cancer advocate in California and Capitol Hill. Ryan is on a mission to save lives, educate men about the importance of early detection, and ensure other families like his don’t experience the pain of prostate cancer.

I lost my dad four years ago to prostate cancer. Get tested and get tested early. It’s important.

— Ryan Pessah
Darik Pearson

Darik Pearson

Frontman of a well-known, touring cover band and devoted dad, Darik Pearson had done everything right. He ate well, exercised, and regularly saw his doctor for checkups, including prostate-specific antigen (PSA) testing. And then, COVID-19 changed everything, and Darik missed two years of physical exams. By his next appointment, Darik was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer at just 48 years old. Darik needed a lifeline and found education, emotional support, and community through ZERO when it was needed most. 

Darik is committed to making sure those most at-risk for prostate cancer are tested early, and as a ZERO Champion and advocate, he is committed to advocating for increased federal research funding to save and improve the lives of those affected by prostate cancer. 

Finding the ZERO community and support system has made a world of difference in navigating my diagnosis. I don’t have to carry the weight of prostate cancer alone.

— Darik Pearson
Chris Hartley and family

Chris Hartley

Husband, father, marathon runner, and longtime ZERO MENtor Chris Hartley has made it his mission to share his story and promote prostate cancer awareness. Chris was first diagnosed with prostate cancer at age 43 and shortly after underwent prostate surgery, hormone deprivation therapy, and radiation treatment. Currently facing his second recurrence, Chris’s perseverance in the face of prostate cancer has been nothing short of inspiring.

A year after his radical prostatectomy, Chris became involved with ZERO’s MENtor program, which offers peer-to-peer support for men facing prostate cancer. As a ZERO MENtor, he brings his experiences and lessons learned, lends an empathetic ear, and provides a safe space for sharing, empowering others to navigate the challenges, uncertainties, and emotions that come with a prostate cancer journey. Being a MENtor allows Chris to make a meaningful impact, reminding those battling prostate cancer that they are never alone, and together, we can conquer this disease.

By raising awareness and addressing the specific needs of gay men in relation to prostate cancer, we can promote early detection, access to proper care, and support networks that embrace and uplift individuals throughout their prostate cancer journey.

— Chris Hartley
Darrell Wilson

Darrell Wilson

After a year of active surveillance, a biopsy confirmed ZERO Champion Darrell Wilson’s aggressive prostate cancer in 2010. In the years since his diagnosis, Darrell has been determined to serve and uplift others affected by this terrible disease as a clinical trial participant, a prostate cancer research advocate, and a dedicated ZERO Us TOO support group leader.

As a support group leader, Darrell has seen the conflicting reality of prostate cancer play out time and again: hope-filled conversations about exciting new advancements that promise more time with family and utter despair when advanced-stage patients like him run short on treatment options. Darrell is dedicated to supporting others affected by this disease and is determined to continue fighting for new treatment options and breakthrough research that give him, and patients like him hope for the future of prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer research is important to me. It gives me hope that something will come…if not for me, then for the next guy.

— Darrell Wilson
A woman with short blond hair and teary eyes speaking at an event

Suzanne Schlernitzauer

Susie Schlernitzauer’s brother Terry was diagnosed with prostate cancer when he was just 59. After undergoing treatment, they thought he had the cancer beat, but tragically, Terry’s cancer returned, and this time with bone metastases. Susie cared for her brother during his fight against prostate cancer and has carried that loving commitment forward to fight for other patients and families affected by this disease. 

Susie’s passion for ending prostate cancer is boundless, and she is fully committed to helping others find the resources they need to make educated and informed decisions about their care.

As a Champion, ambassador, team captain, and advocate, Susie is also the founder of the South Florida ZERO Prostate Cancer Run/Walk, where she recruits teams, raises funds, and organizes the event. Susie co-hosted a successful Miami Tee-Off event alongside fellow Champions this year to raise awareness and funds for the cause she holds dear. Additionally, Susie is a ZERO Summit mainstay, helping new advocates learn how to have an effective and efficient meeting with members of Congress to encourage support for research funding and access to care. Since finding ZERO, her mission became clear: she would fight for the day when men like her brother would not suffer from this devastating disease.

When my brother was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I learned a valuable lesson: life is precious. I believe in the importance of education and awareness so that other families don’t have to go through what my family went through.

— Suzanne Schlernitzauer
Young African American man, Josh Woods, with a blue beard

Josh Woods

The fight against prostate cancer is personal for Josh Woods, ZERO’s Regional Director of Eastern Chapters. After witnessing the pain caused by prostate cancer in his own family, Josh joined the ZERO team to help promote the importance of early detection and testing within the Black community and help advance a cure for the disease.

A talented relationship builder and a lifelong nonprofit enthusiast, Josh has received local and national recognition for his event and fundraising endeavors at previous organizations.

Josh has a knack for rallying support for the patients and families counting on the ZERO community when the road ahead is unclear and is committed to creating a world with ZERO prostate cancer.

ZERO’s mission resonates with the core of who I am and my family’s past, present, and future. It’s not just about addressing immediate challenges; it’s about creating a world where everyone can thrive, regardless of their circumstances. This work allows me to channel my passion into tangible actions that create meaningful outcomes, leaving a legacy of progress and hope for generations to come. ZERO’s mission gives me hope for a better future.

— Josh Woods