Turning tragedy into triumph

Published 3:53 pm Sunday, March 27, 2022

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Do you ever have a conversation with someone and quickly think, “Man, this person is going somewhere?”

That’s the exact feeling you get when you talk with former Oak Mountain High School valedictorian and current Princeton University student Peter Anella.

When you sit down to pick his brain, you not only walk away with that feeling, but you think to yourself that you’re talking with someone who could be a future president.

And it’s not simply because of how accomplished he is before the age of 20, but how he presents himself in conversation.

Close to a year ago, he blew people away with his valedictorian speech during Oak Mountain’s graduation, taking everyone on the journey of his days walking the high school halls, talking about the negatives and the positives.

Nothing about his journey has been easy, but it has been more than inspirational.

During his sophomore year at Oak Mountain, Anella’s dad was diagnosed with cancer, and during his junior year, his dad passed away, living 13 months longer than expected.

Heartbroken and questioning why Anella quickly realized he couldn’t continue to go down that dark path with no answers.

Instead, he asked himself, “What would my dad want me to do?”

At this point, he had already started his own Italian clothing line as an aspiring entrepreneur, but he quickly realized another goal—helping those with cancer.

After seeing how difficult it was for those going through cancer treatments, often alone and just needing something to make them smile, he created the Cool Cat Club.

Not only designed to help raise funds for cancer research, but the nonprofit organization also creates care packages for patients as they go through cancer treatments.

The care packages are taken to cancer treatment centers and shared with the patients just to simply put a smile on their faces during what can be some of the most discouraging days of their lives.

He took the heartbreaking moment of losing his dad and turned it into keeping his dad’s memory alive by helping those in similar situations.

His inspiring story was shared in this year’s Profile magazine, and most haven’t seen the comments commending his desire to simply help others.

Anella’s journey should serve as an example for all of us on a daily basis that as easy as it is to give in to the dark path during our toughest times, there is always another path with a bright light that can make a difference in your own life and the life of others.