11 months ago

2014 Winter Highlights of Hope

  • Text
  • Andel
  • Institute
  • Rapids
  • Sponsors
  • Scientific
  • Epigenetics
  • Michigan
  • Jovinge
  • Cardiovascular
  • Neurodegenerative



Students Exceed Five-Year, $ 100,000 Fundraising Goal Many high school seniors are preoccupied with college applications, the latest social media news, prom and spring break plans. Four seniors at Forest Hills Central High School, however, spent their fall differently. They were focused on an aggressive fundraising goal set as eighth graders to support cancer and neurodegenerative disease research at Van Andel Institute. Participate or support a Purple Community event by visiting Pictured above left to right: Forest Hills Central High School students Bella Fiorenzo, Allie Wittenbach, Sydney Vinton and Mariah Otolski present a check to Purple Community Coordinator, Sara Hop. After meeting with Van Andel Institute founding Research Director Dr. George Vande Woude in 2009, Bella Fiorenzo, Mariah Otolski, Sydney Vinton and Allie Wittenbach decided to make an impact on cancer research by raising 0,000 before they graduated in 2014. “Cancer affects the entire community,” said Vinton. They created the Purple Community Club and hosted their first event as eighth graders when they raised ,000 at a middle school track meet. Their fundraising events have grown each year, culminating in their final event in December 2013. They planned an entire week of festivities leading up to boys’ and girls’ varsity basketball Purple Games TM . Students kicked off the week with a hockey game and fundraiser at Quaker Steak & Lube. They held spirit days, sold purple t-shirts, hosted coin wars in the elementary and middle schools and prepared for the basketball game with a pep assembly. The feature event was a great success. The high school gym was standing-room only for the basketball games. The students recruited 44 sponsors and exceeded their fundraising goal with their cumulative total reaching 5,962. The students take great pride in the fact that 100% of their donation benefits VAI research labs where discoveries are made that could lead to improved cancer treatments and diagnostic tests. Since getting involved with Purple Community, the students’ lives have been personally impacted by cancer. Several have watched firsthand as relatives received cancer diagnoses and underwent treatment. Wittenbach helps coordinate the event and plays in the basketball game to honor her mother who was diagnosed with cancer when she was a freshman. “When I walked into the gym that day, seeing all the purple decorations made my heart feel so good,” said Wittenbach. “We all share our stories in the locker room of who we’re playing for and that can get sad and emotional. But when we run out there and see our crowd, see people supporting it, everybody has good vibes.” The event means something different to each of the student organizers, but it’s a personal experience for all of them. “Everyone you meet knows a friend, a parent, a sibling, a family member or someone who has had cancer,” said Fiorenzo. “We bring our community together to make a difference,” said Otolski. “It has been wonderful working with Purple Community events over the past five years.” 17

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