Continuing Education Scholarship Program
Meet the 2020-2021 Scholarship Award Winners
Candlelighters awarded 3 scholarships ranging from $2,500 to $500 to three remarkable students: Kaitlin Gartrell, Alivia Clay and Madeleine O’Brien.
Alivia Clay is a graduating senior at Wilson High School in Portland, Oregon. When she was 9 years-old she was diagnosed with Leukemia. When she was 12 years old, Alivia was selected as an Honored Child for Candlelighters fundraising activity called Ride For A Child. It was her own experience with childhood cancer that inspired her to pursue her interest in medicine at Texas Christian University. “Then after almost three years, I was officially cancer free. I wanted to move on, to say goodbye to cancer forever. I did not want to have to remember all the pain and suffering. I was ready to be done. However, I could not ignore that there were still children in the hospital, although I had lost many along the way. I needed to fight for children afflicted with cancer and for those whose lives were cut too short. If I wasn't fighting for myself, I needed to be fighting for others.”
Kaitlin Gartrell is a graduating senior at Canby High School who was diagnosed with Leukemia when she was three years old. Her ongoing experiences with cancer treatment and the health care providers who supported her and her family were the driving force for her interest in studying biology. Kaitlin will attend Pepperdine University in Southern California. “While attending a fundraising event for this organization, I realized an even bigger impact that I could have. During the evening I watched dozens of faces roll by on the screen of kids who had fought or lost their own battles with cancer. I felt an overwhelming sense of uselessness. I wanted to help those kids. I knew how scary their lives felt and I wanted to be more than just a light for them. I decided on that night that I wanted to become a pediatric oncologist so that I could make a lasting difference in the lives of kids who are faced with cancer.”
Madeleine O’Brien was five years old when she was diagnosed with pediatric brain cancer. Today she is a junior at Northwest Christian University in Eugene, Oregon, studying psychology and forensics to better understand why her brain works the way it does. “My cancer was so aggressive it was not staged. I endured a year of intense chemotherapy and radiation and I spent nearly a year inpatient in the hospital. I also have needed years of extreme rehab therapies such as occupational therapy, physical therapy, vision therapy, cognitive therapy and other interventional therapies. While other kids my age were learning how to ride their bikes, how to sing, play sports and other fun activates, I was relearning how to think and use my brain and body again. My fight against cancer has reminded me of something that my dad would say when I was younger - that he does not like quitters. This is probably one reason I never give up fighting for my goals and what is important to me. My advice to kids who are fighting cancer is to stay true to yourself and that you CAN overcome the disease and achieve your dreams.”
In 1996, Candlelighters For Children With Cancer established the Candlelighters Continuing Education Scholarship Program. We recognize that families can amass overwhelming debt in medical bills after years of treatment, follow up appointments, and on-going medical issues caused by treatment. The journey doesn’t stop for families, and Candlelighters support doesn’t stop either. Financial assistance is awarded to high school seniors or current college students to support their pursuit of a higher education who have previously been or are currently diagnosed with cancer.