Christmas Without Cancer was one of ISU PRSSA's student-run firm's clients for the 2013-2014 year with junior member Grace Johnson leading the PRi team for the account.
Tell us about yourself.
I am a junior public relations major. I am a townie, born and raised in Bloomington, Illinois. I like to read, run and occasionally binge-watch Netflix. I currently sit on the College of Arts and Sciences Council, and I am excited to start an internship at the Alumni Relations office this summer.
Tell us about Christmas Without Cancer.
Christmas Without Cancer is a non-profit organization that provides holiday gifts, as well as basic necessities to local families that are stricken with cancer. In 2003, Gerri Neylon, an oncology nurse at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., started the organization. She was moved by the struggles of families undergoing cancer treatments and the toll it takes on them emotionally, physically and financially. She began by “adopting” a family in need, and then asked friends and family for donations to provide Christmas presents and gift cards for items like gasoline and groceries. Since then, Neylon and her team have raised thousands of dollars for hundreds of families in the Southland area. She has had a strong hand in bringing suffering families out of the darkness of medical expenses. Neylon is a true inspiration.
Why did you want the Christmas Without Cancer account?
Cancer is very near and dear to my heart. My little brother, Grant, is almost 19 years old and has had cancer for 11 years. It is no exaggeration to say that his diagnosis shook our family to its core. After 11 years, we still have to work to find our new normal. Our family went to St. Jude Children’s Research hospital the day after he was diagnosed, and they saved his life. They are the reason he is still with me, and will likely be able to grow old with me. Additionally, we have not paid a single dime to St. Jude for Grant’s treatment. Their mission to save children at literally no cost to the family was our salvation. Unfortunately, not every family dealing with cancer can go to St. Jude. Expenses that come with cancer treatment can be debilitating. I have read stories about cancer patients in their 20s who have had to declare bankruptcy because they could not keep up with the medical bills. No one deserves to suffer because of inability to pay, and Christmas Without Cancer is doing something about that. Their donations allow families to stay afloat during trying times, and I think that generosity is remarkable and amazing.
What have you learned from being an account executive in PRSSA?
From a public relations perspective, this experience has taught me a lot about effective communication. It is definitely a challenge to coordinate with the CWC team from two hours away. Neylon and I have had to work hard to effectively communicate our vision and plans for different projects. CWC is a small nonprofit, but the network that they have created is incredible. Public relations fosters that network and helps it to grow and thrive. I am very thankful to have had the opportunity to be a part of it.
How will you use this experience in your future career?
Again, the communication strategies that I have learned through working with Neylon and her team will be useful throughout my career. The leadership experience has helped me to delegate and prioritize tasks and projects.
What is your dream job?
My dream job would be in international public relations. I love the idea that publics all over the world influence each other through trends and social media. I would love to go to another country to get another perspective and experience international public relations on a larger scale.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I see myself working for an international agency where I can travel and work with public relations professionals in different countries.
Questions composed by Cassidy Obis
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PRecisely PR is the blog of the Illinois State University Chapter of the PRSSA. We write about Chapter events, the public relations industry, member profiles, and more.