Age 16, President, Pink Polka Dots Junior Guild, Lake Forest Park, Washington
My older sister, Sydney, was my best friend. She was diagnosed with a brain tumor when she was only 10. The doctors said it was inoperable and gave her a year to live. I didn’t really know what it all meant – I was 8 at the time – but I remember that Sydney hugged me every night because she didn’t know if she would survive to see me the next day.
I remember Sydney struggling in her last days to collect items for a garage sale so other kids wouldn’t have to go through what she did. After she died, three of her friends started the Pink Polka Dots Junior Guild (PPD) to carry on her dream. Since then, our guild has raised more than $500,000 for pediatric brain tumor research.
Last spring, before they headed off to college, the original PPDs had a ceremony to pass the torch to a new generation, and I became the guild’s president. I knew I had a big responsibility, but that didn’t scare me. The changes in my life and in my family after Sydney died – especially seeing my parents cry so much – created a lot of anger and sadness inside of me. I’ve directed all that energy into the guild.
As the lead PPD, I challenge our younger guild members to make positive changes in the world. Knowing that there’s always more to achieve and do keeps me going.
I can’t bring Sydney back, but I can do a lot to help other kids who are diagnosed with cancer. I know my sister would be proud.
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Published in Connection magazine, April 2013