|Each year, Hillsborough County recognizes individuals who
demonstrate high ethical standards and have made a difference in their
And Town 'N Country resident Bob Samuels is a nominee for
the county's 2003 Moral Courage Award.
"I think it's a real honor." Samuels said. "I'm extremely proud
that people think the work that I do has some value."
For people whose lives have been affected by prostate cancer, his
work has significant value. Samuels is chairman and founder of the
Florida Prostate Cancer Network, a not-for-profit organization in Town
'N Country that focuses on prevention methods, legislation, research
and providing information related to prostate cancer.
And while the organization uses many avenues to accomplish its
goal, Samuels has a simple description for the network's mission.
"We're an activist group, and an education group, and a
whatever-it-takes-to make-it-happen group," he said.
"Whatever it takes" includes distributing a prostate cancer
resource directory, organizing annual African-American men's health
forums and pushing for legislation that addresses prostate cancer in
Florida. Awareness is especially important since 95 percent of
prostate cancer is curable if detected early.
Last year, Samuels tried to get the Legislature to pass the
Prostate Cancer Awareness Act, which would have funded an awareness
program and advisory committee. And although Florida ranks second in
the nation in new prostate cancer cases, Samuel's efforts were
unsuccessful and the state still has no specific legislation relating
to prostate cancer. Samuels pointed out that 22 states have some form
of prostate cancer legislation, and he plans to try again with the
Before retiring to Florida in 1992, Samuels was vice president of
the Global Financial Institutions Group in New York. He was diagnosed
with prostate cancer in 1994. At that point his life changed, and
Samuels was determined to take action in helping others who are
afflicted with prostate cancer. "I jokingly tell people that I spent
31 years in banking in New York trying to protect people's assets. Now
I'm involved in saving men's... backsides," he said with a laugh.
"It's a whole new mission in life. And that's what I've made it - a
According to Ricky Reynolds, head football coach at Blake High
School, Samuels fulfills his mission with information and education.
"What he's been trying to do is really educate people, and bring
literature and information to them about different diseases such as
prostate cancer, high blood pressure and heart disease," Reynolds
Reynolds got involved with the annual African-American Men's Health
Forum about three years ago, when Samuels looked to former football
players to help promote the event. Reynolds played for the Tampa Bay
Buccaneers and New England Patriots during his professional football
career. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in June 2002, but is in
good health today.
And while there are many factors motivating Samuels, Reynolds
offers a simple explanation for his commitment to the community. "I
think he just has a heart for people," Reynolds said about Samuels.
Every time someone calls him with a problem, he's able to help them
make some wise decisions."
Candidates for the Moral Courage Award must meet specific criteria
in order to merit consideration. But all candidates have displayed a
willingness to pursue an agenda in spite of obstacles from government.
"The criteria point to people who have stood for what is morally right
in the face of government actions, which keep them from achieving
their goals," said Edith Stewart, public affairs officer for
Hillsborough County. Stewart also works with the Citizens Advisory
Committee, which will choose a finalist and present their selection to
the county commission for approval.
The committee will decide on a finalist at its regular meeting
scheduled for late February. The county commission will then consider
the committee's decision at its March meeting, with an official
presentation to follow.
Samuels has three sons and a wife, Lillie. He is a survivor of both
prostate and throat cancer, and recognizes the blessings in his life.
"I got married after I got diagnosed. There is life after prostate
cancer, trust me," Samuels said. "The good Lord sent me a wonderful
mate who is right by my side and helping me in all that I do."
For more information about the Florida Prostate Cancer Network,
www.florida-prostate-cancer.org or call 813-806-2800.