We are beyond thrilled to announce our this year’s Isabella Santos Scholarship Recipient, John Ford. John was one of many who submitted an application for a $1,000 community service scholarship. John is graduating from Marvin Ridge High School next Monday and will be attending University of Georgia in the fall. John is on the youth board for Kids v. Cancer and has participated in lobby days, Curefest and Light the Night on behalf of Kids v. Cancer. Please help us in congratulating John on this outstanding award and his entry to UGA.
By John Ford
My life is rich with volunteer experiences and I am not talking about my service to others, I am talking about those who have volunteered to serve me. As a young child, I was diagnosed with cancer. That diagnosis changed my life. My treatment began when I was 4 years old and continued until I was 9 years old. During that time, many people helped my mother and me as we navigated the harrowing road of pediatric cancer. Just a few of the volunteers that I had the privilege of knowing were the child life specialists who would spend their time playing games and doing crafts with me to ease the pain of my treatment, the therapy dogs and their owners who would visit to help me during those difficult days, the men and women of HomeTown Heroes who raised money to help us with medical bills and who took the children to a local Walmart on Christmas Eve to pick out whatever toys we wanted, and the volunteers at Make-A-Wish who granted my wish for a playset with a clubhouse, pirate flag and spyglass. All of these people touched my life in such profound ways that it instilled in me the desire to do the same for others.
As I grew older and discovered my passions, I realized that I wanted to devote my time to helping other children with cancer. I became a Youth Board member at Kids v. Cancer and have had the privilege of working with Kids v. Cancer to lobby the U.S. Congress for the passage of the Race for Children Act as well as thank them for the passage of the Star Act. I have also represented Kids v. Cancer at Curefest and a Night of Golden Lights at the White House. That was a very moving and humbling experience. I saw childhood cancer survivors, parents who had lost a child to cancer, and children that were battling cancer at the time. I realized how lucky I was to be standing among them and vowed to always strive to use my time and my talents to serve others.
Leading the lobbying team on behalf of Kids v. Cancer was the most meaningful service activity I have done so far in my life. Never before have I felt like I had more of an impact on the world than when I was able to cross my own cancer story with my passion for public policy to help lobby for legislation that has a direct effect on children suffering from cancer. At September’s lobby day, I discussed with the founder of Kids v Cancer, Nancy Goodman, an idea I had researched to add an option on tax returns to donate a portion of state tax refunds to pediatric cancer research. I suggested that we spearhead the initiative in North Carolina. She thought the idea was worth pursuing, not through Kids v Cancer, which should remain focused on passing legislation at the federal level, but put me in contact with people who can help me make it come to life. My next step will be to form the first state-level legislative initiative to pass pediatric cancer research legislation. Ms. Goodman’s words of “No one is doing this – you have to!” has been a driving force in my mind. I have big dreams to help the pediatric cancer community but I know that I need to start small and I am hoping that this first step will launch the change that I hope to see.
I believe that the key to involving local teens in the fight against pediatric cancer is awareness and knowledge. Most teens have no idea what pediatric cancer is all about. They have all seen the smiling faces of the children on the St. Jude’s commercials but they do not comprehend the pain, suffering
Pediatric cancer has residual effects. Because of my