Photography by Aaron Cobb Image by: Photography by Aaron Cobb
Where she's from: Barrie, Ont.
Award: In the Community
Contribution: Kealey has raised thousands of dollars for causes related to cancer through cycling fundraisers.
Where would I like to be in 10 years: "I'd like to be an oncology nurse, to still be volunteering with the Coast to Coast Against Cancer Foundation, and to go across the country again as a nurse."
Kealey Clarke dreams of a world in which no parent ever has to be told, "Your child has cancer," and no kid has to speak at a friend's funeral, as she did at age 17 in her hometown of Barrie, Ont.
Following the gut-wrenching loss of a close friend who had been battling cancer since the age of 13, Kealey turned her grief into a life's mission. She knew there was nothing she could do about the symptoms of the disease or the treatments (chemotherapy and radiation, accompanied by lengthy hospital stays) that so often rob cancer patients and their families of their ability to enjoy what time they have together. So she decided to focus on what she could do: raise awareness and make a difference in the lives of children and families living with cancer.
Kealey was also aware of the financial challenges that often face families with a loved one battling cancer—as if they needed one more thing to deal with.
With the help of a cycling enthusiast friend, she has initiated numerous fund- raising and awareness campaigns—such as stationary cycle fundraiser Inside Ride and cross-country trips from Vancouver to Halifax—that have raised tens of thousands of dollars to date.
The surprising kicker about this fund-raising campaign? "I'm not even that strong a cyclist," she says. "I ride in the support van and take pictures." Yet she has discovered secret strengths that she never knew she had. "For starters, I've learned that, yes, I can make a difference. And secondly, I have developed my public speaking skills—and now I often speak to groups of 800 or more."
Kealey, who's studying to be a pediatric oncology nurse, doesn't see her charitable activities (which include more than 750 volunteer hours for causes related to pediatric cancer) as a benefit resulting from her close friend's death. The grief and loss still run too deep. "He got me involved," she says. "It's something I do in honour of him."
For more inspirational pieces like Kealey's, check out our 2014 Me to We Awards.
|This story was originally titled "Kealey Clarke" in the October 2014 issue.
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