Local man doesn’t want to be a millionaire
by Staff Writer
It’s not every day that an ordinary person gets a chance at $1 million dollars. Then every so often, on an ordinary April Monday, an ordinary man takes a chance to win $1 million dollars, and pledges to give every dime of it away.
That’s the case for Huntersville resident James Perri, who, on April 23, turned the chance of a lifetime as a contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire” into an opportunity to raise awareness – and money – for a cause that hits very close to home.
Perri works as an Emergency Medicine doctor at Presbyterian Hospital Huntersville. The married father of two – Jack, 7, and Sofia, 5 – has been battling a medical issue of his own, in the form of a rare brain tumor known as oligodendroglioma.
“Because it’s so rare it doesn’t get a lot of funding,” says Perri. “So we wanted to raise some money specifically for this tumor.”
Brain tumors aren’t particularly rare – affecting more than half a million people in the United States. However, this particular type, characterized by headaches, nausea, vomiting and even seizures, affects about three percent of the brain tumor population, according to the College of American Pathologists.
The tumor first hit Perri, now 40, when he was 24 years old, and he had it removed. Perri’s job moved him from the Philadelphia area to Huntersville eight years ago, where he found “good weather, nice people and nice traffic.”
Then the tumor resurfaced in 2009. In 2011, his wife, Nancy, created a non-profit foundation, Operation Oligo Cure, in support of her husband and others like him.
“Our plan is to raise as much money as we can to help fund clinical trials for this tumor,” says Nancy. “And possibly to expand some existing clinical trials.”
The timing of everything fell into place. James’ show aired on television five days before the foundation’s first official fundraising event – “Exercise For a Cure” – at The Fitness Center at Birkdale. The benefit featured a half-day of boot camp, Zumba, yoga and group fitness classes in exchange for a donation to the foundation.
Getting on the show wasn’t as simple as just walking on the set. Last year, Nancy called the show’s producers, told them James’ story, and said, “I think my husband would be a great candidate. Can he try out?”
They agreed. They sent him a try-out date in New York City, which was a few days before he was to undergo a radiation and chemotherapy treatment in Philadelphia.
Of the estimated hundreds of people there for the try-outs, the producers picked 20. After a round of one-on-one interviews, they whittled it down to 10 potential contestants who then had to send in a videotaped interview. From there, James got a postcard saying he was part of a contestant pool for the next two years. He could be called to be on the show at a time during that time frame.
Soon enough, they called. But, James didn’t win a million dollars. He didn’t even come close. He walked away with $15,800, all of it going toward brain tumor research. More importantly, he got a chance to tell his story – something even a million dollars can’t buy.
For more information about the foundation and to donate, visit www.oligocure.org.