OK, full disclosure here. I have known Sidney since he was 3, and one of my daughter’s favorite playmates. But here’s the thing: If someone had told me then that just 19 years later Sidney would be a CEO running his own nonprofit agency devoted to helping kids with cancer, I totally would have believed it.
Sidney is just one of those guys born with a kind soul as well as the brains to put his compassion into action.
I meet Sidney for coffee in East Liberty on a freezing day. As I shiver while ordering my drink, he mentions how cold it was for him and “Yossi” at the Steeler’s game last weekend.
“Who’s Yossi?” I want to know.
Answer: the 13-year-old son of a rabbi, who had never before seen a professional football game.
Sidney had an extra ticket and. … See what I mean?
The 22-year-old Pittsburgh native returned to his hometown after four years at Brown University, where he majored in applied math, and completed all of his pre-med requirements.
But during his final year of college, he had one of those “aha” moments about life.
See, at the age of 19, Sidney had founded a nonprofit that arranged pen pal relationships between kids with cancer and professional athletes. While he piloted the program in Pittsburgh, he was running it out of Rhode Island, and had engaged the help of the Boston Celtics, the Bruins and the Red Sox.
“I finished all my pre-med requirements, and I realized that I wanted to be a doctor because I wanted to help kids with cancer,” he recalled. “And then I realized, ‘I’m doing that now.’ That was an eye-opening moment for me.”
Once he decided to abandon the idea of medical school in favor of continuing to run his organization, he began looking for a place to live in Boston.
Then someone suggested he give Pittsburgh a chance.
He hasn’t looked back.
“Pittsburgh is a very unique place,” he said. “It’s big enough that people notice what goes on on a national scale, but small enough that there is a really tight-knit and caring community.” Sidney’s family still lives in town, too, which was another check in the pro-Pittsburgh column.
Fast forward a few months, and Sidney has formed professional relationships with the Pirates, the Steelers and the Penguins to help him with his mission.
But coming home to Pittsburgh after being away for a few years also has its challenges, he said.
“I realized when I came back here that I didn’t know anyone anymore,” he said. “I only had one friend from high school that was still here because he was a student at Pitt.”
But as he is no shrinking violet, Sidney has been proactive in making new peer connections. He frequents events at Moishe House and J’Burgh, and often attends services at a couple different area synagogues.
Obviously a sports lover, he has taken up squash and plays on softball and kickball leagues.
He is a busy guy, but would be happy to make time to spend with the right woman, he said.
“I’m looking for someone I can share moments with,” he said. “Someone who can also be a friend and share the really exciting joys of life, but also the really difficult times.”
Considering how much he has already accomplished at such a young age, I’m betting it will be a great ride.
(If you would like to get in touch with Sidney, email him at