Make the Dream of a College Education a Reality for a Cancer Survivor

by Amelia Old

For quite some time my husband and I have been seeking a nonprofit we could align ourselves with. We have been involved with a variety of organizations over time. Our desire was to find an organization that not only we felt called to work with but that we could be involved on a personal level with the families that were supported. A year ago we learned about Cancer for College-an organization that grants college scholarships to cancer survivors. Due to timing of our schedules, it wasn’t possible for us to jump in until this year. Everything is about timing. Right?


Last week we attended the yearly Cancer for College Casino Night in the Carolinas event held at Ballantyne Country Club in Charlotte. There were great things about this event-silent auction (all with online bidding which I loved), dinner/cocktails, stories from the recipients….it was a fun night. But, my favorite part of the night was having the opportunity to meet with these bright young individuals. They weren’t just cancer survivors. They are our future. They have faced the darkest of days and with a smile on their face proudly share their plans for an education and to live this life they have to the fullest. Each and every one of them realize their days aren’t to be taken for granted. We have alot to learn from them.

At the event we met with one of the scholarship recipients, Brendi, and her family. Brendi is a survivor of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Diagnosed in 2011, Brendi completed her final treatment in January 2014. She’s been in remission ever since. At the age of 17, she is now set to graduate high school in the coming weeks. What struck me the most with her is she is 110% dedicated to using her experience with cancer in a positive light. Her career goals? To become a Pediatric Oncologist. How many of us drown in our sorrows of life’s journey never to see the true lesson behind the path paved for us? Brendi clearly sees her mission. Her purpose.

During dinner, I leaned over to my husband and said “I have a proposal.” This usually worries him as most that know me know I am full of ideas. But the next words out of my mouth he immediately accepted. “Let’s contribute to Brendi’s college education. For every year she’s there, we will support her.” Thankfully he didn’t question my idea. He embraced it and within seconds we had another individual who decided to do the same for Brendi. I am excited to be on this journey with Brendi. In ways I feel like I’ve adopted another child…already feeling pride for her. I have already imagined her walking across that stage receiving her college degree.


My husband Tim, me, Brendi, and our friend Matt who will also contribute to Brendi’s education

The reason I am sharing this is to hopefully inspire you to do the same. No amount is too small to help support a child in their future. There are stories of kids wanting to go into law, marketing, film, and even the medical field. The medical bills that have piled up over years of hospitalizations , surgeries, and treatments sometimes make it extremely difficult to send a child to college.  And the average cost of a 4 year college per college is a little more than $30,000 per year.

Think about this. How many of you drink coffee? I used this Calculator to determine how much coffee is costing thousands of people and the numbers are pretty shocking. With those who purchase two a day, here’s what you are looking at

You will spend $126.00 in a month.
You will spend $1,533.00 in a year.
You will spend $45,990.00 over the course of 30 years.
That’s ALOT of money. So, maybe give up your Starbucks visit or some other habit and begin to put this money into a fund instead. Into someone’s future. These kids have survived something that many wouldn’t be able to. But they had the mental strength to say “I can beat this.” They knew life wasn’t over for them. For my husband and I, it makes the world of difference knowing the person we are helping. We don’t want to just give money. We want to build a relationship. We want to see Brendi achieve her goals of becoming a doctor. We want to watch her help save those who are facing what she’s already fought.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

I encourage you to check out this Engajer from Craig Pollard, two time cancer survivor and Cancer for College Founder, and Will Ferrell, Cancer for College Celebrity spokesperson.

Since inception, Cancer for College has granted nearly $2 million in scholarships to almost 1,000 cancer survivors. The charity has shifted it’s focus into building a sustainable scholarship endowment fund with an ultimate goal of $10 million.

I encourage you to read more about Cancer for College and what they do at 

You can make a difference. These kids have already proved they have fight in them. They are strong minded. We can help them make their dreams a reality by sending them to college.

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Kelley May 20, 2015 - 3:08 pm

This is so wonderful Amelia! Cancer is something that is so close to my hear losing my mom and both sets of grandparent’s, so I love seeing when people come together for a great cause supporting cancer survivor’s!

K. Elizabeth May 21, 2015 - 10:14 am

Such a great cause. Having several family members who have had cancer, I’m definitely looking forward to checking out Cancer for College in more detail.

Cindy Bradley May 21, 2015 - 8:15 pm

Thank you so much for what you are doing and especially for bringing more attention to Cancer for College! My daughter, Kenna Holtzclaw and I were there Friday night as well, she received her fourth scholarship from this organization and graduates from Physician Assistant School in December of this year. This organization is near and dear to our hearts and we plan to give back in a big way in the coming years.

Terrye Moore May 21, 2015 - 8:55 pm

Praise the Lord for your generosity!

Heather Elsea June 18, 2015 - 11:31 pm

Thank-you Amelia sounds like a wonderful organization. I wish the American Cancer Institute of America would help out widows of cancer. After losing Justin, I have lost my home, cars and whole bread winner. He wasn’t ever able to get life insurance, after his first battle with cancer. I am currently living back with my parents. It’s very hard to do after living on your own for 10 years. I wish I was able to apply for the scholarship 🙂


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