Glendale Heights – Loving families finding hope and strength in the face of cancer is the common theme among the three first-place winners of “What the Pink Ribbon Means to Me,” a children’s essay contest sponsored by Adventist GlenOaks Hospital to observe Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The essays were judged on content and originality.
TyShai Freeman, 15, of Hanover Park, won first place in the 15- to 17-year-old age category. Brianna Cianci, 11, of Bloomingdale, is the first-place winner among 11- to 14-year-olds, and Jessica Griffin, 7, of Glen Ellyn, is the first place winner in the category for children age 10 and younger. All three winners were personally touched by cancer.
TyShai Freeman, a sophomore at Lake Park High School who lost her grandmother to lung cancer in 2007, wrote, “Being diagnosed with breast cancer is devastating and a battle.” TyShai, who plays basketball, also wrote about the loss of a teacher and a famed college women’s basketball coach, both of whom died of breast cancer.
TyShai’s mother, Keisha Washington, is a phlebotomist at Adventist Lab Partners.
Brianna Cianci, a sixth-grader at St. Isidore School in Bloomingdale, wrote about a close family friend she refers to as her aunt who is a breast cancer survivor.
“The pink ribbon means to me that there is always hope of finding a new way to cure cancer,” Brianna wrote. “The pink ribbon is a symbol of hope, faith and love.”
Brianna, who is named for a great-aunt who died of breast cancer before she was born,
entered the contest with the help of her grandmother and surprised her mother, Carla Aloisio.
“Cancer has touched the lives of our whole family,” said Aloisio, who owns a hair salon in Carol Stream that she is considering expanding in order to feature custom-designed wigs for cancer patients.
“I didn’t know Brianna was going to enter the contest, and this has just been so inspirational,” Aloisio said. “We talk about it a lot and winning the contest was so positive for Brianna. She looked at having cancer from a different angle. She said, ‘We’re all in this together and it doesn’t have to be scary.’”
Jessica Griffin, a second-grader at Ben Franklin School in Glen Ellyn, wrote about her mother’s battle with breast cancer.
“My mom has a bug in her. It is sad,” Jessica wrote. She related how she tries to help her mother and adds, “So I think the pink ribbon means that everything will be OK.”
Jessica’s mother, Wendy Griffin, completed treatment for breast cancer in July.
“As terrible as it was, our community was so supportive, it was overwhelming,” Wendy Griffin said. “I started chemo last November, and from November through March, we had meals made for us three to four days a week. It was good for Jessica to write about it.”
“We did practice writing in school, and that’s where I started writing about my mother,” Jessica said. “She’s doing much, much better.”
Brinsley Lewis, chief executive officer of Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, thanked all the participants for submitting such compelling essays.
“Breast cancer has affected the lives of so many people in our community,” Lewis said. “Reading these children’s stories of how it has touched them and their families is inspiring.”
The essay contest winners were honored during a Pink Lighting Ceremony Sept. 30 at Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, 701 Winthrop Ave.
Adventist Midwest Health includes Adventist Bolingbrook Hospital, Adventist GlenOaks Hospital, Adventist Hinsdale Hospital and Adventist La Grange Memorial Hospital. To find a physician, visit www.keepingyouwell.com.
Media contact: Lisa Parro, senior public relations specialist, Adventist Midwest Health, Lisa.email@example.com; 630-312-7508