OCEAN CITY – A local man with a huge heart but ailing lungs will have the opportunity to forward his message of hope and the importance of a positive mental attitude when he appears next week on one the largest stages in the world.
P.J. Aldridge, who was diagnosed with Stage IV lung cancer last February during a surfing vacation in Costa Rica, has since been waging his own personal battle against the insidious disease while fighting a larger war for greater awareness and research funding.
With the help of his organization, the P.J. Aldridge Foundation, including his vast number of supporters, friends and family, he has already raised tens of thousands of dollars through a variety of local, regional and national fundraising efforts.
Next week, however, Aldridge will have the opportunity to advance the cause on a much larger stage when he appears on the popular Oprah show. The show was actually taped this week and will air on Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. Aldridge and his close partner in the foundation, Vera Taylor, traveled to Chicago this week for a chance to appear on the nationally syndicated show and participated in the episode. The details of their involvement have not been released for obvious reasons.
Taylor said this week she sent a letter to the show’s producers several weeks ago after responding to a future show topic posted entitled “Heroes in Your Life” and “How they Changed Your Life,” although she didn’t expect to get a response. However, on Nov. 6, Taylor got an email from the Oprah show inviting them to Chicago.
“They didn’t tell us anything and they gave us practically no time,” she said. “I thought it was Spam at first and almost deleted it. We found out it was the real deal and we flew to Chicago, hoping for even 30 seconds to talk about the foundation.”
From the beginning of his personal battle to his larger effort later to increase awareness and raise funds for lung cancer, Aldridge’s simple message has been the importance of a positive attitude, fostered by the prayers and well wishes of his countless friends and supporters. Ever since, his “Mojo” message has resonated with his ever-expanding support group on their way to a remarkable fundraising effort. More importantly, the “mojo” appears to be working for Aldridge personally as he clears hurdle after hurdle on the way to restored health.
His latest tests have show positive results, and while he has a long way to go, it appears his treatments, and perhaps more importantly, his positive attitude, are achieving the desired results.
“His doctor told him recently ‘whatever you’re doing, keep doing that’,” Taylor said this week. “Whatever that ‘mojo’ thing is you have going, keep doing that.”
Despite his illness and the ongoing treatments, Aldridge remains front and center for all of his foundation’s remarkable fundraising efforts and speaking appearances, to the point Taylor and his friends often have to remind him to slow down.
“He goes almost non-stop,” said Taylor. “A lot of times, he just feels like crap, but he keeps going and going. We have to rein him in sometimes because we’re worried he’s doing too much.”
Taylor said the idea for the foundation was borne last April out of Aldridge’s own frustration with the level of funding and research available on lung cancer. Taylor said she talked with Aldridge about the different treatments available and was taken aback by the lack of options and the lack of funding available for research.
“What I found out is that lung cancer is the highest cancer diagnosed with the least amount of funding,” she said this week. “When young doctors and scientists are choosing their fields, they don’t choose lung cancer because of the lack of funding for it. That’s how the foundation started.”
Since then, the P.J. Aldridge Foundation, (pjaf.org on line and Pray for PJ on Facebook), has embarked on a relentless fundraising campaign extolling the message of hope and positive attitude, pumping fundraising dollars and a heavy dose of “mojo” into its collective tank. While the events have been ongoing and continuous, the efforts culminated most recently with a series of National PJ Month events in October. The line-up of events included a first annual golf tournament, a big kick-off party at Seacrets, a guest-bartending gig at Sunset Grille, another party at South Moon Under and even a Solomon’s Island Bar Crawl in Aldridge’s native St. Mary’s County in southern Maryland.
The list goes on and on including numerous local and regional radio and television appearances. Just prior to finding out about the Oprah show appearance, Aldridge and Taylor were at High Point University in North Carolina for a significant fundraiser. A High Point student interning at South Moon Under this summer presented a fundraising plan as part of her course work and the school accepted it, creating another big success for the foundation.
On the way home from High Point, Taylor said Aldridge asked her what was next and she didn’t have anything big planned, which is when she received the email from the Oprah show. The show airs Monday at 4 p.m. and the Galaxy 66 Bar and Grille on 66th Street in Ocean City is hosting a show-airing party complete with food and drink specials and, of course, more fundraising efforts.