Being in the top four, Louie Sangalang knows that all bets are off if he truly wants to be “the one” in The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition.

But never in his wildest dreams that one of the most crucial business challenges he will have to partake in is something that hits close to home.

“This is a particular challenge that I was not expecting,” he admitted. “I was telling my wife about it and when we watched the episode, my wife was bawling her eyes out. I wasn’t expecting a challenge that really has such a human connection.”

The final four global candidates were tasked in episode 11 to work on a concept using Twilio’s technology in boosting the donations and volunteers for specific non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

And the one that was given to Sangalang and partner Jessica Ramella? LOVE, NILS, a three-and-a-half year old organization which is looking after cancer patients and their families in the battle against the big C.

“LOVE, NILS began because my son had cancer,” shared LOVE, NILS founder Lesli Berggren. “The cancer journey wasn’t easy and my son Nils was 12 when he was diagnosed with stage four lymphoma and he was treated in an amazing hospital here in Singapore for a year. There were a lot of complications and need for outside resources to support the emotional side that my son needed, but also for my family and his twin sister Claire. He developed some more complications and received a stem cell transplant that transplanted us to Seattle. Unfortunately, he passed away six months after that and I came back to Singapore to continue to take care of his sister.”

Spurred by her thoughts of lending a helping hand to those currently treading the dreaded path her family took, Berggren took it upon herself to set up a charity in aiding the process.

“I knew that I had gained a lot of knowledge about the hospitals and the care they provide for these families and I felt I had the responsibility that I can help these families,” she said.

“I put together an organization called LOVE, NILS in honor of my son, and we didn’t have any money to throw out in it. I asked a lot of my friends to help me and be volunteers and help fund some of the programs. Three and a half years later, I’m really thankful to say that we have a powerhouse of amazing volunteers that support these programs, nine programs in two hospitals that are the major hospitals that treat children with cancer from all over Southeast Asia. We have a lot of children that come from Indonesia, the Philippines, and in Malaysia, so it’s quite an amazing mix of kids that I feel very honored and privileged that we get to support, that we provide care coordinators, art sessions, T-shirt masterpieces, and so many things that just try and bring smiles and some respite to these children.”

The challenge didn’t just tug on Sangalang’s heart, but it also gave him flashbacks of the battles he had to endure when he was just 21 years of age.

“Cancer is a disease that is not very easy to cure, a disease that is not very cheap to cure. So there’s only so many financial resources to be able to go through the appropriate medications,” he said. “There’s no parent who wants his child to go before him or her. And I could relate to that. how my parents felt when I had [cancer] when I was 21. When I got sick and I realized that my parents were spending so much, I was thinking, ‘Is it even worth it?,’ knowing that your parents are financially wrecked. So these thoughts came to me and I was thinking much more with kids who don’t have that kind of level of maturity, who don’t have a complete understanding of the world. So it is, for me, something that is real and something that needs to be addressed.”

That’s why it was imperative for Louie and Jessica to not just be able to deliver a concept that would impress the judges, led by ONE Championship chairman and CEO Chatri Sityodtong, but also find a concept that could be used by LOVE, NILS moving forward.

“We were approaching the challenge from a different perspective. We were approaching it from a perspective that most cancer patients are not necessarily treated as such,” shared the usually stoic Sangalang, who really hammered on capturing the emotional side of the prospective donors and volunteers in helping LOVE, NILS. “There is a psychosocial aspect of it. When people are becoming so desperate, they really want to live, they’re just so scared that they’re gonna pass away, and this creates so much discord in your head.”

Then came Nils’ Pals, an AI chatbot which bridges the gap between the patients and the donors themselves. The chatbot Claire was named after Nils’ twin and daughter of LOVE, NILS founder Lesli Berggren.

“When Jess I created the product, it allows a cancer patient to be able to reach out directly to a care counselor which LOVE, NILS provides. And that to me is such an immediate response in a situation. People will want to reach out to someone and it’s amazing how technology just gets us connected,” he said.

“Basically, I look at it this way, we have a suicide hotline. And the project that Jessica and I worked on is similar to that, but instead of suicide, you have someone who’s ready, because this person may want to know more about the disease, or may want to have access to treatments or whatnot. And that’s one of the components, I think, in cancer recovery or cancer rehabilitation that is not really addressed.”

Safe to say, Sangalang and Ramella knocked the challenge out of the ballpark that LOVE, NILS is considering adapting that concept in the future.

In turn, Louie and Jessica find themselves the last two candidates standing, fighting tooth-and-nail for the honor to win the $250,000 job offer as Sityodtong’s protégé and chief of staff at the ONE Championship Global Headquarters in Singapore

With two episodes left, Sangalang said that he’s willing to lay it all on the line to be considered “the one.”

“I know that I can be a person that can’t be relatable to the universe because I’m a very reserved and quiet person, but what I assure you is that I will continue to deliver. I will do my best to win the top spot,” he said.

Catch the exciting finale of The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition as it is showing across Asia on AXN, the show’s official Asian broadcast partner, with markets to include Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Vietnam.

The Apprentice: ONE Championship Edition is also available on other platforms and TV networks across Asia, including MediaCorp (Singapore), Abema (Japan), KompasTV (Indonesia), Amarin TV (Thailand), LINE TV (Thailand), TV5 Network (Philippines), and HTV (Vietnam).