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Junior Named an Everyday Young Hero

WCU junior Megan Hess has a passion for helping families that cancer has invaded, and her good deeds have been noted. She was just named an Everyday Young Hero by Youth Service America (YSA), an international leader in the youth service movement. Everyday Young Heroes, chosen weekly from across the country by YSA, are young people up to age 25 who are improving their communities through service to others.

Hess earned this national recognition for her role as Bringing Hope Home (BHH) WCU Chapter president and for hosting a Halloween costume 5K run, raising $1,700 to help a local single mother pay her bills while undergoing cancer treatment. The tag line for the event: "Because fighting cancer alone is scary."

"This cause is very close to my heart," says the nursing major from Bethel, Pa. "I will be helping families battling cancer for the rest of my life. It is my passion." Here, she explains why.

Q: Why is being a leader for this organization important to you?
A: When I was a freshman in high school my boyfriend was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. We continued to date until our freshman years in college. I attended most of his regular treatments at Hershey Medical Center as well as countless blood testing, spinal tap, and physical therapy appointments. This experience made me realize that I wanted a career in pediatric oncology. With my acceptance to WCU's nursing program, I began the first steps toward my passion of helping individuals and their families who are diagnosed with cancer. My family members have had similar experiences. My stepmom's brother passed away from cancer at the age of 17, and my mom's grandfather passed away from cancer as well.

I was able to see not only the physical impact that cancer has on the patient but the emotional, physical and psychological effects a cancer diagnosis has on the family. I had been searching WCU for a way to apply my passion toward this cause but failed to click with any one organization. I wanted a group that lessened the immediate burden for these families. I had learned about BHH my freshman year when I volunteered at BHH's STOMP Cancer 5K, but there was no way for me to connect and help on a regular basis. When the BHH WCU Chapter was created I could not wait to be a part of it …. We need organizations that work toward a cure for cancer, but just as importantly we need organizations that focus on the immediate needs of these families.

I have never met a more dedicated, passionate, and truly caring group than the staff of BHH. If you contribute to their cause one time, you become part of their family. They will never let you forget how much they appreciate you for that. They inspire me and gave me the courage to step into a leadership role that fits me perfectly. I am lucky enough to have an incredible group of club members who show up consistently each week, along with a dedicated executive board and club advisor who work hard and are also passionate about what we do.

Q: Why did you choose to host a run as a fundraiser?
A: As a club, we chose a run because BHH holds a STOMP Cancer 5K Fun Run and Walk every September in West Chester. This event has become increasingly successful since the first run in 2010 with 100 runners to more than 700 runners this year. They raised over $65,000 this year. This success and the wonderful experiences I have had at the run the past two years led us to the decision to create our own. We wanted to amp up the excitement by being creative, thus the Halloween Costume 5K. We had an awesome turn out this year with more than 75 runners and over $1,700 raised with only about a month of planning. This success leads us to believe that this annual event will continue to increase in success with extended planning time and knowledge gained from the first event.

Q: What else does the WCU BHH Chapter have planned?
A: We will now shift our focus to the Adopt-A-Family program. This program allows supporters to fundraise to pay their adopted family's household bills or provide gifts and gift cards to their family. At WCU we will be reaching out to other organizations, encouraging them to adopt a family as a club. BHH WCU Chapter will most likely be partnering with Colleges Against Cancer to raise money to adopt a family together. We will then either organize an event on campus to wrap our gifts with the participating organizations or we will join other supporters at BHH "HOPE" Headquarters in Wayne, Pa., to wrap our presents.

The incredible part of this program is that we are given the opportunity to also deliver our presents in person to our families. This experience creates a lasting impact for both the givers and the recipients.

BHH was founded by WCU alumnus Paul Isenberg '87, in honor and memory of his late wife, Nicole, also a WCU graduate, who passed away from Stage IV Hodgkins Lymphoma. Hess notes that "Isenberg and his staff made strides to create college chapters in the hopes of increasing awareness and funds to help more families every year. They decided to start at WCU because not only are three out of the six employees of BHH WCU graduates, but essentially this campus is where it all began with the uniting of Paul and Nicole." WCU's BHH Chapter meets Wednesday evenings in Sykes Student Union Room 115 (behind the food court) at 7 p.m. and welcomes anyone from the campus community who wants to help local families battling cancer.

View Hess' Bringing Hope Home video here. Learn more about the nonprofit.