Contact: Thomas Hottman
When Nicole McNerney's aunt Joann passed away in 2011 after a battle with colon cancer, she and her family knew they wanted to do something in her memory.
"Our family was really affected by that," McNerney said.
In addition to losing her aunt, McNerney, a junior at Triad School, saw several other people close to her suffer from the disease, including her teacher Christina Wehr.
McNerney's family created the Joann Burns Memorial Foundation, which offers scholarships to college students who have been impacted by cancer and are studying in a field that will benefit cancer awareness, treatment or research.
"I knew I wanted to do something in my own small way to keep my aunt's memory alive as well as Mrs. Wehr's," McNerney said.
So, in 2012, she started the "Defeat Cancer" walkathon at Triad to help raise money for a linear accelerator machine at the Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center.
That first year, she raised more than $4,000.
The next year, McNerney's walkathon raised more than $10,000 for the family of a woman fighting a rare form of cancer, racking up "extremely high" medical bills.
This year, McNerney's goal is to raise $20,000 for the Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center at the walkathon scheduled for May 9.
"I am deeply committed to cancer awareness, treatment and research," McNerney said. "Without everybody's help and willingness to give, all of this wouldn't be possible."
McNerney is Miss Klamath County's Outstanding Teen for 2015, has been honored as the United Way's Youth Volunteer of the Year, as part of Massachusetts General Hospital's "100," and was awarded the Violet Richardson Award from the Soroptimist organization.
McNerney's mother, Lori Burns, is amazed by her daughter's energy and dedication.
When Joann, McNerney's aunt, passed away, the family wondered what they could do to honor her memory, Burns explained; she's always encouraged her children to give back to the community.
McNerney's $20,000 fundraising goal with this year's walkathon is high, Burns said, but she's always happy to support her daughter.
"With that goal, it's really going to take a community effort," Burns said.
Both mother and daughter noted that the Sky Lakes Cancer Treatment Center is an asset to the community.
"Cancer impacts all of us in same way or another," McNerney said. "As a community, I'm hoping we can all come together to honor the warriors who have battled this horrible disease."