BYU nursing alumna Beth Vanderwalker stands in front several of the gold bows that she helped sell this month to support childhood cancer research.
One of BYU’s slogans is “Enter to learn; go forth to serve.” Nursing alumna Beth Vanderwalker (BS ’95) has spent September turning that phrase into reality as she dedicates time to help combat childhood cancer.
“I have always been involved in charity events and promoting causes close to my heart,” she says. This month, that dedication was taken up a notch.
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. While not as prevalent as cancer in adults, statistics show that it is the second largest cause of death in children ages five to nine (the first is accidents). The American Cancer Society estimates that this year 10,380 children will be diagnosed with cancer in the United States, and that 1,250 children under the age of fifteen will die from it.
For Vanderwalker, it’s a cause that hits close to home. One of her high school friend’s young daughters passed away from cancer, and her husband lost a brother to it earlier in life. However, she says, “there continues to be very little funds available for pediatric cancer research.”
One organization dedicated to changing that is Cookies for Kids’ Cancer; founded by parents who lost their child to cancer, the group sells cookies to raise money for childhood cancer research. It also organizes fundraising events within communities.
This year, Vanderwalker worked as a neighborhood representative in her neighborhood’s “Paint the Town Gold” event, which supported Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. This was a mix of fundraising activities, including selling gold bows to hang on mailboxes (gold is the color for National Childhood Cancer Awareness month), getting donations from local businesses, and bake sales. The impact was far-reaching in many aspects, including monetarily.
“In just two weeks, I was able to raise $1100 and have 110 yellow bows displayed throughout our neighborhood,” she says. “Working with other neighborhood representatives, a total of over 1600 bows were sold, raising over $16,000.” This is money that will be donated to help study childhood cancer and how to treat it.
Vanderwalker appreciates how her family and many others have worked together to make this initiative a success, and also that it has been an eye-opener for the neighborhood.
“This has brought awareness of the research needs and has also brought attention to families that live in our community that are fighting this fight,” she says. “When a child gets cancer, you feel helpless. Much of this burden falls on the family supporting the child. This event has allowed me to honor these families, remember children that have passed away, and give back in a small way.”
With September coming to a close, Vanderwalker looks forward to getting involved next year. Some may wonder how much impact one person serving can have, but Vanderwalker believes that “every little bit of effort adds up quickly.”
“As a wife, mother, and working full time, it would be easy to think it is too hard to find time for anything more,” she says. “However, this event gave me the opportunity to meet new neighbors, bring awareness to the needs of children and families fighting cancer, and raise money for research. It’s amazing what you can do with just a few hours to make a difference.”