Cancer warrior giving back

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Jessica Hicks

After receiving support from the community and various organizations when she was battling Hodgkin’s  lymphoma, Valmeyer High School junior Jessica Hicks is looking to return the favor.

She is doing that by raising money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society through the Gateway Chapter’s Student of the Year program.

“Through my battle, a bunch of organizations were helping me, and I decided that I needed to give back,” Hicks, a Maeystown resident, said. “So I figured this would be a good way to give back.”

Hicks was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in May 2018. 

In October, VHS hosted its annual volleyball match that spreads breast cancer awareness in Hicks’ honor. 

The school held various fundraisers for Hicks, gave her roses and took her to the game in a Valmeyer Fire Department truck. 

Other fundraisers have also taken place for Hicks, whose latest scans in December showed she is still cancer-free. 

Hicks already knew she wanted to do something to give back after all that was done for her when her cousin nominated her for the Student of the Year program. 

Hicks learned of that nomination about four months ago when the LLS contacted her to inform her she was nominated. 

She was familiar with the organization, as she had participated in its annual Light the Night Walk fundraiser in her grandmother’s honor for several years. 

“I heard about them through that, but when I was fighting, I didn’t know anything about it until this,” she said. 

On Thursday, a LLS representative from the Gateway Chapter, which was founded in 1973 and serves eastern Missouri, southern Illinois and Arkansas, spoke with Hicks about the program. 

The LLS is the world’s largest voluntary health agency dedicated to blood cancer. The organization’s mission is to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. 

It has given nearly $1.3 billion to research.

The Student of the Year Program program involves students in the area of their local chapter raising money for the society over seven weeks. 

The fundraising is in honor of an individual the students’ pick. 

Those funds are used to fund research in search of a cure and ensure access to treatment for all blood cancer patients. 

“This was a good opportunity to give back, and none of the other organizations really do anything like this,” Hicks said. “I thought this would be a good way to give back to everybody.”

The student who raises the most money in those seven weeks, which begins Feb. 14, will then move to the national Student of the Year competition. 

The Gateway chapter winner will be announced at a grand finale celebration April 3. 

Hicks, who plans to raise money in her own name, is still planning on how she will raise funds. 

Current fundraising efforts she plans to undertake include donation jars at local businesses and VHS home games and a hat day at school. She is still considering more options. 

Hicks said being named Student of the Year would mean she did her best for the LLS. 

“That would be amazing because then I would know I did everything I could to give back to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society,” she said. 

Even if she does not win, Hicks said the experience will benefit others through the money she raises and through simply having this experience. 

“I’m going to get business experience, and it’s going to look good on my  college applications,” she explained. “And there are some scholarship opportunities for this.” 

Hicks’ college and career plans have also been altered by her battle with cancer, as she wants to be a pediatric infusion nurse. 

“Before I wanted to be a paramedic, but then I went through this and I saw that all my nurses were really happy,” Hicks said. “I want  to do that for kids who battle cancer.” 

Hicks will soon launch a Facebook page to update people on her fundraising efforts. Individuals will also be able to donate by searching for her campaign  on the program’s website, studentsoftheyear.org. 

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