When her beloved Aunt Joannie passed away in 2011 after a five-year battle with cancer, Nicole McNerney, age 14, channeled her grief into helping other patients with cancer.
Nicole created Joann Cares Baskets for patients who, like her aunt, received care at Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center in Klamath Falls, Oregon. A tribute to her aunt’s loving spirit, the baskets contain items that soothe patients during treatment, including a blanket, socks, heating and cooling pads, lotion and an inspirational book.
Also in honor of her aunt, the Joann Burns Memorial Scholarship awards grants to students preparing for medical careers. Nicole helps to organize its fundraising road race, the Firecracker Mile, which kicks off the annual Klamath Falls 4th of July Parade.
Nicole has also been a driving force in raising funds for the Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center, where her aunt received compassionate and skillful care near family and friends. Nicole organized the Defeat Cancer Walk-a-thon, which raised more than $2,500 toward the purchase of a new linear accelerator for the center. Nicole recruited everyone she knew to help stuff envelopes for a direct mail appeal to 17,500 households for the center’s capital campaign.
Now a high school freshman, Nicole manages to keep her grades high while carrying on her aunt’s battle to conquer cancer. Her latest project: a campaign to educate young people on cancer risks and promote cancer screenings.
Recently, Nicole received the Violet Richardson Soroptomist Award and was named the Klamath County United Way Volunteer of the Year in the youth category for her volunteer work for cancer awareness and fundraising.