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Kristie's Kids - Loving Arms Around Those Impacted By Cancer Scholarship

Funded by
Picture of the donor
3 winners, $2,500 each
Application Deadline
May 15, 2024
Winners Announced
Jun 15, 2024
Education Level
High School
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements
Education Level:
High school senior
3.0 or higher
Affected by cancer

Cancer is a life-changing disease that can permanently alter the lives of those diagnosed and their families.

Each year, around 1.9 million people are diagnosed with cancer. A cancer diagnosis can mean intense battles, declining health, and possible death but can also bring about newfound resilience, love, and strength.

This scholarship seeks to support students who have been impacted by cancer, whether they’ve lost loved ones or are survivors themselves.

Any high school senior in Texas who has at least a 3.0 GPA and has been affected by cancer may apply, but students who are Christian or involved in music, arts, cancer research, mentoring, communication/speech, or volunteering/advocacy are preferred. 

To apply, tell us about yourself and how cancer affected your life journey?

Selection Criteria:
Ambition, Need, Boldest Profile
Published December 1, 2023
Essay Topic

Tell us about you and your interests. How has cancer affected your life journey (positively and/or negatively)? What do you hope to accomplish by attending college?

400–600 words

Winning Applications

Brandon Heather
John H Guyer High SchoolLantana, TX
Beating the odds is nothing new to me. 15 years ago, I had a 25% chance of survival, now I am a 17-year-old Senior in High School and getting acceptance letters to a couple colleges of my choice! Hepatoblastoma is not exactly a household word, it's a rare 1 in a million pediatric cancer. I spent the first 5 years of my life in and out of hospitals. Eventually my only hope was to receive a full liver transplant and I received my new cancer free liver on Mother's Day at Texas Children's Hospital. My treatments left me with some slight hearing loss issues and of course the transplant has brought about another set of life changing circumstances. I am immunosuppressed and on a first name basis with all the area phlebotomists! I have several scars all around my body. I used to feel self-conscious at the pool or locker rooms, but my mom has always supported the best in me and I'm finally now at a point to be proud of my scars, my strength! My mother has taught me how to manage my care, make all my appointments and how to advocate for myself. Advocating for myself is something I hope to turn into advocating for others. I started a small volunteer activity when I was 10 called Brandon's Buddies where I collected stuffed animals from friends and family and brought them to the hospital to pass out to kids in the hospital like me. Seeing the smiles on the kids’ faces made a forever impact on me. I know that I am meant to help kids in a fragile medical state. I would love to say that I have the mind to be an oncologist or even a transplant surgeon, but I'm a realist and I must try hard to get the grades I do have - I am an average student with a big heart and drive and determination to make a difference. I am going into Business Management – specializing in Entrepreneurship so that I can learn how to effectively start my own non-profit business. I have a twin brother as well! He will be going into Marketing and Communications. Together we hope to start up a wonderful compassionate and strong foundation that will help families struggling with medical bills and the emotional aspects. I have been a Make-A-Wish kid, so I know this is an area already being utilized. But we have different ideas to make this even broader and will focus a lot on the sibling aspect as well. I spend time volunteering at a local animal shelter and have made a lot of wonderful connections that I know I can implement into my future business plan to help others. Brandons Buddies just might evolve into the four legged variety to provide comfort and smiles! I will be working while in school to help cover my costs, with my brother and I both in school and at the same time, my mother will also be getting a side job to help us. She has been an Executive Assistant all her life and never did go to college, my brother and I will be the first in our family! When I eventually walk down the stage to get my college diploma, all the dreams my mom has had for me, along with all my dreams to help make my community a better place for families struggling with cancer is going to be is finally going to become a reality and I’m so honored and thankful to be here for this moment.
Brennan Konopczyk
On the surface, there is nothing extraordinary about me. I love sports, get good grades, and have a dog named Jovi (named after a character in the classic Christmas film, ”Elf”, not the equally classic New Jersey rooted rock band named, “Bon Jovi”), have a girlfriend and great friends to hang out with and go to the movies. I work at a local sandwich shop, where I get to work with my sister, Mia - my only sibling, closest ally, and confidant. That is the 10,000-foot view of my life: the average teenage boy. It is what most people don't know about me that has defined my young life. My mother, Kelli, was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer when I was only four years old, and she died when I was eleven. I do not have a childhood memory where my mom wasn't either sick from cancer and chemotherapy or dead. Yet, through her life, she inspired me to be who I have become and go where I want to go. This is not some hollowed-out ideal of a person I want to emulate, like a sports figure, political leader, or entrepreneur. She was a real person in my life, fighting a diseased body and mind while knowing her time here with Mia and me was so limited. The rawness of her life those last few years will shape me as long as I breathe. My mom was a fierce woman raised in the U.S. Marine Corps family, growing up in many places, but mostly Hawaii and California. She was a proud 1997 graduate of The Texas A&M University, with a degree in political science. After college, she ironically went to work at the national headquarters of the American Cancer Society in Washington D.C., where she was a grassroots and legislative coordinator. Years later, after a marriage, two children, and her cancer diagnosis, she went back to the American Cancer Society as an advocate of cancer research, funding, and awareness. She was even a national spokesperson starring in a nationally-run television commercial. I am so proud of her. She was amazing, regardless of the situation, but knowing that she was fighting severe illness, fatigue, her mortality gives me strength to carry on and do my best. If my mom could do it sick and knowingly dying, then what excuses do I have? Some may say my life has been difficult without her in it. To which I would agree, but I am not the only one with hardship. Unfortunately, too many of us have known loss, personal illness, or injury; I am not alone. My mom and dad used to talk about the blessings of cancer. As crazy as it sounds, they would speak of how it made them appreciate life, connect with friends, and receive others’ generosity. Adding to their list of blessings is my determination to make something of myself while realizing, at just seventeen years of age, the cliche’, that life is short. I appreciate its truth. Cancer has followed me throughout my entire life, yet I choose that to be a good thing. I appreciate the lessons which it has brought to me. I am currently a teen leadership council member for a company called Wonders & Worries, W&W is a nonprofit organization located in Austin, Texas, that provides support for children affected by a parent's illness like cancer, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, and other serious illnesses. I also want to become a Camp Kesem counselor while attending college. I grew up attending Camp Kesem over summer breaks to better understand cancer, and my feelings towards it.
Reagan Moore
Mcneil H SAustin, TX
Joan Didion says “Life changes fast. Life changes in an instant. You sit down to dinner, and life as you know it ends.” This quote rings true in my story, except in my case it wasn’t dinner- it was breakfast. One morning, I was shoving down some toast on the way to my bus stop, and the next I was stirring my tea in silence, trying to quiet the noises in my head and grasp the fact that my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. Even while having several family members and friends who had lost their lives to cancer, including my best friend’s mother and my grandmother, to have a parent struggling with the same realities hit me in a way that I was utterly unprepared for. Despite her extremely positive prognosis, I found myself unable to look on any sort of bright side. In my anxiety-ridden state, every doctor’s visit was one where she could return with a suddenly fatal sentence and every round of labs she did was sure to render the worst-case scenario. As someone who has struggled with extreme anxiety for as long as I can remember, I still cannot think of a time when I felt so helpless. My mother elected to have a bilateral mastectomy later that month and recovered beautifully- the scans giving her the all-clear. And while we all rejoiced, hugged, and finally exhaled, the nagging “what ifs?” and “what thens?” still agonized my brain. I began having an extremely difficult time trusting doctors and their decisions regarding my health as well. It felt as though my body and mind were at war with each other- a battle I still find myself fighting almost 3 years later. But it was in the depths of this battle that I stumbled upon something beautiful. Something lifesaving. I decided to devote my time to my high school’s theatre program. At first, I used it as an outlet to disappear. All I wanted was to forget about my present circumstances and become someone else- even if it was just for a 2-hour play rehearsal. I began to find healthier ways of managing my anxiety and trusting the people I kept around me. They encouraged me to talk freely about my mental health and reassured me that I was never alone. As I venture into my future in college, I have faith that I can use the way that cancer has affected my life and turn it for good. The lessons that it taught me -and will continue to teach me- are ones that still live deep inside me. Inside the 14-year-old Reagan that I now keep tucked away. But, sometimes, I feel her resurface. When I lose myself in the “what ifs” or try to isolate myself- I hear her. She reminds me that there is no point in pretending that I can predict the future and just how miraculous it is that I can walk into my living room and hug my mother. An ability that I will never take for granted. The anxiety that was birthed in the wake of my mother’s diagnosis is something that I will battle with for the rest of my life, but now I know how I can coexist with it and accept it as a part of my life but not the defining factor of it. Because when you allow anxiety to walk with you instead of on top of you, you become the author of your own story.
Christin Merrell
University of ChicagoLancaster, TX
I was diagnosed with cancer at a young age; 4 to be exact. I never quite understood the severity of my illness then nor fully now. I know the facts of course; I had Wilms' Tumor, I went through chemotherapy and radiation, I was sick for an extended period of time, I lost my kidney as a result of cancer, and I survived. But to be honest, I never fully and truly understood the emotional impact of my illness on myself or my parents as well. My mother tells me that I knew I was sick but never anything more than that. I mean, how is a 4-year-old supposed to know how severe cancer is? As my mom states, I was the happiest sick girl there could ever be; I would help clean my port cheerfully and watch intently as the phlebotomist drew my blood for a multitude of tests that had to be run. I quite literally had no clue and maybe that was for the best. I have no memory of going through the process, which in a sense is sort of isolating. When at the summer camp I attended for cancer survivors, called CampIHope, I realized a commonality between everyone else. They all were very aware of their cancer journeys and were able to talk openly about what they had gone through in-depth while I could not recollect one memory. It led to feeling disconnected from my diagnosis as I could not connect with the campers/cancer survivors for whom the camp was for. I made friends based on us both having the same type of cancer, but that’s as far as the connection went. Truly, the only raw memory is from my parents and the plethora of photos they have from the journey. Other than that, it's hard to connect to the idea of cancer. What's the point of "spreading my story" when I can't even remember my supposed story? I always felt like my cancer was something missing from me. Like the vacant cavity where my kidney used to be, I don't look like I had cancer or even remember the treatments. It's been hard trying to figure out that piece of the puzzle. Trying to figure out your identity in your childhood is hard enough, even without the severe illness that I endured at a young age and the consequences of that. The real issue to me is not that I went through cancer or that I even lost a kidney; it's the fact that I can’t locate any memories in my mind. It's quite hard to feel like you survived and had this incredible feat of beating stage 3 cancer when you cannot remember one bit of it. I feel as if that’s why I have gravitated so heavily to medicine. If I can’t understand it from a personal level, then the closest thing is from a professional level. Learning how cancer cells mutate and spread across the body in school has made me feel more connected to my cancer diagnosis than ever before. The opportunity to share with my classmates and show them the various CT scans of my tumor and doctor’s notes as well has helped tremendously. Medicine is the one thing that helps me fully understand what I went through as a child. It’s not the pictures, the first-hand sources, or even the scars; it’s the simple fact that I can learn more about cancer, research to my heart’s content, and help children that are facing the same illness as me.
Cooper Payne
Saint Andrews Episcopal SchoolAustin, TX
I live in Austin, Texas in the South Congress neighborhood. Growing up in South Austin has inspired my love of music and vintage clothes. I have attended St. Andrews Episcopal School since the first grade, I am thankful to have made life long friends there. I have played soccer since the age of 4 and love spending time pursuing a number of other sports including rock climbing/ bouldering, weightlifting, and volleyball. I also enjoy writing and especially poetry. Recently I received a national award for my creative writing. Having lived in Austin, Texas my entire life, I am excited to go to college in another part of the country and have applied to lots of diverse colleges schools across the country. In college I hope to gain the skills to become an entrepreneur, and start a business that helps people become healthier and happier through physical fitness. Here is a writing sample I wrote about my Mom, Shauna Martin, who is a lifelong advocate for those affected by breast cancer. I have helped her raise lots of money for breast cancer organizations, and I plan to continue to help her as she launches her new foundation focused on the needs of women like her with metastatic breast cancer. Here is an essay I wrote about the impact that she has had on my life: Many of the people I have surrounded myself and grown up with have had a different idea of family life and family values than I have. My Mom, Shauna Martin, has had complicated underlying health issues my whole life due to her being diagnosed with stage two breast cancer on my first birthday and re-diagnosed with stage four metastatic breast cancer when I was thirteen. While I would say this changed my life and shaped me into the person I am today, I cannot because it has been present my whole school career and my whole teenage experience. I can say that my school experience and idea of family life and values have been significantly different from my peers because of my mom’s illness. From as early as I can truly remember, my sense of making time for my family was heightened compared to my fellow peers. While my peers could look at their family in a sound and non-moving way, I didn’t share the same luxury. I have always had to deal with the fact that my mom could be taken away from me at any given moment, making every moment I could spend with my Mom that much more important. As a result of my Mom’s diminishing health, I made the conscious decision to limit my social calendar, because I wanted to spend more time at home. This has ultimately been a blessing, because the fewer relationships I could maintain became deeper and stronger then they would have been if I had had the same social calendars as my peers. My mom has always inspired me through her perseverance not only to stay alive, but to try and create a better life for me with the time she has left. I try to model her tenacity and bravery in every endeavor that life may throw at me. All the way from the pewee swim team to my first day of high school and beyond. While everyone may have times in their life where they need perseverance to get through, not everyone has the right tools and may just not know how. The battle that my Mom faces everyday with a terminal disease gives me the strength to know that I can persevere through life.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is May 15, 2024. Winners will be announced on Jun 15, 2024.

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