Why I Volunteer
Everyone always asks why I am so passionate about helping others. Most people don’t understand having a passion for something usually means it holds a special place in your heart or has affected you in one way or another. Mine starts off from a time that I honestly can’t even recollect. I was a month shy of turning two and my grandmother passed away from leukemia. Being that young, one may think that it doesn’t really hurt the person. Truth is, I will never know how wonderful of a person she was/could have been to me. The only things I know about her are from the amazing stories I have been told from my family. Her passing away so young is something that I will never understand and will always have lingering in the back of my mind.
As I got older I quickly learned how deadly the word “cancer” is. When I was just 11 years old, my best friends’ brother was diagnosed with childhood leukemia. He was only 14 years old. I quickly watched him go from starting on the football team to being reduced to a wheel chair due to his chemotherapy. It was truly an eye-opening experience for me, as I tried to understand what was happening. He started becoming very pale, started losing his beautiful blonde hair, and shortly after you see the sparkle in his eyes start to deteriorate. Only a short year after being diagnosed, we lost him. About a year after this, another one of my fellow students was diagnosed with cancer. He was a well-known teenager throughout our community, and it was about a year after diagnosis that we lost him as well. This one really hit me hard – his funeral contained at least 1,000 of us students to support him and his family through the trying time.
After these two tragedies, I began to realize that this fight needed to be recognized – from not just the families but the communities that’s affected as well. When the next family friend was diagnosed with cancer I was 15 years old – the patient was only 3. I had played softball for years with her older sister and her dad was a teacher at my school, so she had grown up around me. She was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, and was told that the only option was to remove her eye. The family searched for another way and found out there was some testing and trials being done in NYC, so they took a leap of faith. As we all know, this treatment and traveling for cancer is not cheap. The family wanted to put on a benefit concert for their little girl. So here was my family’s first chance to show the community we were helping them fight the fight. We held the benefit concert and little Miss Karli is now 6 years cancer free!
I was in the clear with cancer for several years after this great news. Then it hit me again…. When I turned 18 was when cancer really started to hit close to home. In February of 2011 my uncle was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Growing up in the music business, I knew about this type of cancer. He was already developed into the 4th stage, so we knew that chemo was not an option and wouldn’t help his condition. He had to send his 5-year-old daughter back to live with her mother, and I had to watch him tell her their final goodbyes. It was heart-wrenching. We unfortunately lost him in April of 2011. Two weeks after we lost him, my grandmother passed away. We found out that she had lung cancer, and kept it a secret from the family because she was prepared to leave this world. This loss is definitely the one that impacted me the most. She was my rock and held me up so many times throughout my minimal 18 years of life. At that moment, I knew that I was destined to help fight the fight against cancer in whatever way I possibly could. Volunteering for cancer causes is definitely the first step to not only helping, but healing me as well. I do plan on pursuing a career in the non-profit industry – I believe I have the necessary passion for it.
During my times volunteering for the Nikki Mitchell Foundation, I have had several meaningful experiences. The Montgomery Golf Tournaments are definitely one of the most memorable. I have had the pleasure of helping set up and run the concert since 2013. My job the past few years has been to run the Bud Light truck right beside the stage. When I tell you that this is by far the most fun volunteering job I have ever had, I truly mean that. We have ladies and gentlemen come to the truck to grab a drink, enjoy the music and tell us about their experiences. Then, they remember that they are there for a cause and start opening up about how it effects them. I had one lady during the 2015 concert that stood at my table for at least 30 minutes explaining how this foundation has such an emotional connection with the attendees. She had spoken about her grandfather being diagnosed with cancer at a fairly young age, and he beat it! She told me that the one thing that affected her the most about being at the concert that year was the fact that we did the statistics with the audience. She had always known that her grandfather defeated the odds, but she had never truly realized the minuscule percentage of patients that actually make it. By this time in our conversation, she was so emotional and thankful for all that we have done/are doing that she was hugging me. At this moment, I knew that the Nikki Mitchell Foundation is doing something right in so many ways and I knew I was meant to be a part of one of the best foundations ever set up.