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Shrewsbury girl on a lifesaving mission

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Shrewsbury – Most high school students use the summer as a chance to pad their personal coffers through various enterprises such as scooping ice cream and lifeguarding. One teen from Shrewsbury is doing just the opposite. In an effort that began earlier in the spring to defray the cost of her father’s cancer treatment, Jessica Sebring, 16, has raised more than $30,000 to benefit Merkel Cell Carcinoma research.

“I started on March 19th, 2010. My dad was in Brigham and Women’s and I was actually going over to Dana [Farber] to get a volunteer application,” Jessica said, “On my way I went through the Bridge of Hope which was one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen.” Painted on the walls of the connector between Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute by Nan Freeman, director of the Post-baccalaureate Program at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, the Bridge of Hope is a mural of birds carrying medicinal herbs. Birds can be sponsored with a donation.

Sebring decided then that she would begin her own campaign against cancer.

“The prices for the plaque and bird ranged from $500 to $10,000 and I can precisely remember having a conversation with my grandma saying how absolutely awesome it would be to raise $500. In the end, not only did I raise the maximum amount of $10,000, but I actually raised $20,000 over it and all $30,000 went to Dana-Farber for Merkel Cell Carcinoma research.”

To accomplish her goal, she enlisted the help of friends in Shrewsbury and elsewhere. “For fund-raisers, I sent out a letter to my family and friends urging them to donate to help save both my dad and then other people with Merkel Cell Carcinoma. I also made and then put collection boxes around town at local restaurants. My dad also worked for an amazing firm – Carlin, Charin & Rosen – that donated $10,000 of the $30,000.”

The mural-inspired plan had been to present Jessica’s father, Michael, with the donations on his 51st birthday, but he passed away two weeks prior to the event. Jessica said, “I kept it a secret until [his birthday], hoping to make it a surprise on that day, so my dad actually never found out.”

Spurred on by generous support, Jessica has turned aside distress in favor of a passionate pursuit.

“It was by far the greatest experience of my life,” she said. “Dana-Farber and Brigham and Women’s have the most amazing employees, particularly Maureen Camerato and Jennifer Mascia. They made the process as smooth as possible. It was so much fun and so exciting every time a new check came in. It honestly just took off .”

Despite surpassing her initial monetary goal and becoming a part of the Bridge of Hope, Jessica has no intention of abandoning her fund-raising post.

“I plan to keep the boxes around town and keep donating the money that they collect. I also plan to do a fund-raiser in which I will have 10 to 15 girls that were once normal tanners that will pledge to not tan for a certain amount of time. They will ask multiple people in their lives to pledge them a certain amount of money for every week that they do not tan. It will be similar to how if you were to do a cancer walk to raise money, someone will send you maybe 15 cents for every mile you walk.”

Jessica has made further cancer prevention in the future a priority. She has succeeded in her initial undertaking and plans to continue her dedicated eff ort to ending the disease’s tragic consequences. If you would like to participate in her tanning boycott or donate money to fight Merkel Cell Carcinoma, she can be contacted via e-mail at jsebring143@yahoo.com.

When a 16-year-old stands up against a seemingly unstoppable disease, it begs the question of what the rest of us are capable of doing. For Jessica, it’s simple.

“I think I could change the world,” she said.

Short URL: http://www.communityadvocate.com/?p=7396

Posted by on Jun 25 2010. Filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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