Despite urgent cancer battle, Youth Impact founder Robb Hall presses forward

Wednesday , September 13, 2017 - 5:15 AM3 comments

JANAE FRANCIS, Standard-Examiner Staff

OGDEN — A man responsible for answering thousands of the community’s most important prayers now finds himself in need of as many.

The founder and director of Youth Impact, Robb Hall, 51, announced last week that he has stage 4 melanoma, a cancer that may take his life within weeks.

“I believe in prayers and good vibes,” Hall said Tuesday in a discussion about his chances of survival. “I believe in miracles.”

Hall is undergoing a course of chemotherapy that, if successful, may buy him some time. 

Either way, Hall’s message about his condition is hope-filled.

“My staff is hand-picked,” he said. “You couldn’t change the mentality of what we give the kids every day with me leaving. I might be the face, but these people are doing the work 10-fold with the kids day-to-day. That is not going to change.”

While Hall is confident his program is well-established, those closest say his illness already is leaving a hole in the community. 

“Robb is absolutely the epitome of how one exemplary person can make a huge difference in the lives of others,” said Rob Garner, managing partner at Enwest Marketing and a financial contributor to Youth Impact.

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Youth Impact, located on the corner of 23rd Street and Grant Avenue, is an Ogden non-profit Hall started at The Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in Ogden. The program, in its 25 year, now includes 243 children.

Generally, school-aged youth involved are from homes where circumstances make attending school regularly and achieving good grades a challenge, officials said.

Kids participate after school to get homework help and advocacy from staff members who attend parent-teacher conferences and take them to appointments as needed. The youth also enjoy myriad activities from league sports to building bicycles.

“(The people of Youth Impact) are taking the kids that have the least probability of success and turning them into contributing members of society,” Garner said.

“He’s been the picture of hope,” Bob Hunter, president of United Way of Northern Utah, said. “Robb Hall is the embodiment of Youth Impact.”

Hunter says Hall takes the interests of every child he works with as seriously as he would if they were his own kids.

“Youth Impact has been great partners with United Way,” Hunter said. “We’re all praying to our higher power for a miracle in Robb’s life.”

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Riverdale resident Isaac Lovato, 31, said his life would have spiraled downward if not for Hall.

When Lovato was 14, his older brother was stabbed by a rival gang member and could have died. When Lovato was 17, his brother’s friend was nearly killed by a drug dealer.

“I never got too deep into that stuff,” Lovato said. “This is a big reason why.”

Today, Lovato is a dispatch supervisor with AAA.

“This program taught me how to work and how to speak,” Lovato said. “It did a lot for me that my environment couldn’t do.”

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Hall’s inflence is felt much wider than just with the kids he serves, people said.

Brenda Kowalewski, associate provost for high impact programs and faculty development at Weber State University, said she’s seen WSU students transformed after working at Youth Impact.

“I don’t think Weber State would be where we are with our community engaged work without that experience and learning from Youth Impact,” Kowalewski said.

“He is one of a kind,” Kowalewski said. “He’s absolutely amazing because of the impact he’s had on this community, the kids in the program and the Weber State students who volunteer or are work study students in that program.”

A current Youth Impact participant, Christal Martinez, 16, a student at Ben Lomond High School, said Hall was the father figure many of the students looked up to.

“He is taking us out of what could change our path in life,” Martinez said. “This is really a family.”

A fund to help the Hall family with medicial expenses has been set up at America First Credit Union under the account number 9096991.

You may reach reporter JaNae Francis at jfrancis@standard.net or 801-625-4228. Follow her on Twitter at @JaNaeFrancisSE or like her on Facebook at facebook.com/SEJaNaeFrancis.

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