Philanthropist bypasses cancer on way to Boston Marathon, other goals
Philanthropy has always been at the forefront of Ethan Zohn.
While many know him from his time on “Survivor” television – even winning “Survivor Africa” - he has worked diligently to raise awareness for various causes.
The former professional footballer is a two-time cancer survivor and a holistic cannabis wellness advocate.
Zohn recently teamed up with Trulieve and will run the 2022 Boston Marathon on Monday to celebrate 10 years cancer-free.
“I was racing in 2013 and I was taken off the course at mile 24,” he says. “It was the year of the marathon attacks. I return not only to mark the fact that I no longer have cancer, but also to pay tribute to my father, who loved to run.
Zohn has used his elevated profile to create partnerships that help people.
“My main goal in life is to use sport to deliver important health messages to the masses,” he says, “whether through football to teach about AIDS and lymphoma. I would also like to erase the stigma that accompanies cannabis. It helped me on my wellness journey through cancer and I use it after.
Although Zohn is not originally from New Mexico, he has strong ties to the Land of Enchantment.
In 2002 he co-founded Grassroot Soccer in Albuquerque with Methembe Ndlovu, Kirk Friedrich and Thomas Clark.
Ndlovu, Friedrich and Clark were all former members of the Albuquerque Geckos. Zohn was introduced to them when he played professional football with the Hawaii Tsunami and Cape Cod Crusaders.
Grassroot Soccer is an adolescent health organization that harnesses the power of soccer to educate, inspire and mobilize young people in developing countries to overcome their biggest health challenges, live healthier, more productive lives and be agents of change in their communities.
It focuses on preventable diseases like HIV and pregnancy complications which continue to be the leading causes of death among adolescents.
Zohn also started the Safe Roots Foundation in New Mexico with Friedrich.
The foundation’s mission is to provide financial and technical support for the most innovative approaches to drug addiction prevention among adolescents.
“I used the money I made from ‘Survivor’ to start Grassroot,” says Zohn. “It was a way for me to help.”
Being part of the “Survivor” franchise taught Zohn what it’s like to be a human being.
“They weren’t going to let me die, but they challenged me,” he said. “That’s why today I share the messages of health and sport. I share my story and focus on the challenges I had to overcome amid my nightmare with cancer.
Zohn is also excited to see more states passing recreational cannabis laws.
While undergoing treatment for lymphoma, he often had to find cannabis illegally.
“It was scary doing an illegal activity that would make me feel better,” he says. “After cancer, cannabis played a big role in my life with the anxiety of relapsing.”
Over the past few months, Zohn has ramped up his training for the Boston Marathon.
“I’m a goal setter and I work to achieve every goal,” he says. “I want to finish the race for my dad, while raising awareness for the fight against lymphoma.”
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