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Nikolette's Fight Softens Fans' Hearts
Nikolette Harris had been a student at Cooper Mountain Elementary School (Beaverton, Ore.) where my mom is an instructional assistant. Two of Nikolette's previous battles with leukemia had been during her time at Cooper Mountain. Nikolette's positive attitude about her condition and the matter of fact way she explained why she was balding and what chemotherapy was had an impact on my mom. So much so that I can still remember hearing my mom talk to me about how hard it was to try not cry while Nikolette spoke to her about her chemo treatments.. I went to Nikolette's website (www.curenikolette.org) and was inspired even more to help her out. One particular journal entry of Nikolette's stuck out to me – she said that she was older now and no longer required her parents constant companionship at the hospital during her chemotherapy. I was touched by her bravery and decided that I needed to do what I could to help her and her family out.
I tried to raise funds for Nikolette at my office. Unfortunately, our company had just finished a six-week long corporate giving program and too many folks were already tapped out. While I felt discouraged I still wanted to do more for Nikolette. There had to be a way.
One of my passions is following the Oregon Ducks football team and while the Ducks had a great season this year by winning 10 games, many of my fellow fans were complaining on eDuck.com's message boards about the Ducks not making a BCS bowl game. It wasn't that the Ducks were sitting home during the bowl season. After all Oregon would be traveling to San Diego to play the Oklahoma Sooners in the Holiday Bowl.
All the complaining though was tiring and one day I thought I'd try to change the mood of the fans by posting a message about Nikolette and asking for donations. Maybe things would be put in perspective if these guys on Duck Pond could stop griping about a football bowl game and put some energy in helping a sick little girl. However, eDuck.com has a policy against solicitations on the message boards, but this effort was worthwhile enough in my estimation to ask eDuck's ownership if an exception could be made. They agreed so I posted the message about Nikolette and where a donation could be made.
Soon afterwards I heard back from a couple of people who told me they had donated. So I set a goal to raise $1,000 for Nikolete. One of the posters on Duck Pond, Thomasb challenged the Oklahoma fans to help donate. Thomasb had $250 and figured if we could find another 250 people to match his donation that half the money for the family could be raised. Soon there was a message on OUInsider.com (the Oklahoma site) about the challenge.
The Sooners response was overwhelming.
The Oklahoma fans stepped up in a major way, donating to a little girl they had never met and brought to their attention from a poster that was a stranger to them. Suddenly, the Holiday Bowl was given more meaning: Ducks and Sooners fans were rallying around Nikolette and coming together for her cause. More challenges were posted on other college football boards: Mississippi State, Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn and Oregon State. In about a week and half, $15,000 was raised for Nikolette's family.
Wayne Drehs from ESPN called. He had received an email from Ryan Solin (souldaddy) who had alerted him about the challenge between the two sets of fans and Drehs indicated he was "possibly interested" in writing a story on the fundraising efforts. We spoke on the phone for about 20 minutes. At that point, I was really hopeful that ESPN would do a story about Nikolette.
On Friday (Dec. 16) just three days later, I was reading some entries on Nikolette's guestbook when one of them jumped out at me. It said "I just read about your story on ESPN.com" I almost fell out of my chair. It happened! Wayne's story was linked on the ESPN college football page and later that day, it was linked on ESPN.com's front page (with the eDuck logo to boot!) Nikolette's guestbook was exploding with well wishes and prayers all around the world.
10:30 PM that same night, my phone rang. Darren Fabre of KMTR News Source 16 (the NBC affiliate) in Eugene saw the link on ESPN and wanted to do a story on it. Nikolette's family was also hearing from media about the story. On the same day the ESPN story came out the Harris family was called by KATU 2 (ABC Portland) and they had given a phone interview to a University of Oregon sports radio program.
Saturday morning (Dec. 17), Susan Harding from KATU called and wanted to interview me. After ensuring they had spoken previously with Nikolette's family, I agreed to an interview in my home. The story ran on the 5 o'clock and 11 o'clock news shows. During the segment that was broadcast, Susan interviewed Nikolette who did a great job. I was so happy to see them keep showing the link to her site so more people could donate.
I honestly believe that had the Ducks been picked for the BCS that none of this may have happened. The mood on the board might have been way too excited for this to catch on the way it did. Who knows if I would have even posted the message in the first place? It is so heartwarming to see something so positive derived from discussions of what football bowl game the Ducks would play or not play in.
My thanks to Thomas and Ryan because without them both this challenge may not have happened.
The Children's Organ Transplant Association (COTA) administers money donated to this cause.
The family receives the donation totals from COTA just twice a month and I expect another update will be published on Dec. 30th.
Please take a few minutes to wish Nikolette well at www.curenikolette.org
Information about the Children's Organ Transplant Association can be found at www.cota.org
For more information on how to become a bone marrow donor: www.marrow.org
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