When a group of students who live together off campus learned their 10-year-old neighbor has leukemia, they spearheaded a campus wide effort to help the girl and her family.
Katie Occhipinti ’12 (basketball), Sara Owen ’12 (softball), Michelle Kent ’12 (softball), Becca Florczyk ’12, Jessica Imhof ’12 (basketball), and Caitlyn Seamster ’12 (softball) became fast friends with fifth-grader Wilmeris, her older brother, Novel, and her younger sister, Vicki, when they moved in next door last fall, helping the youngsters with homework, carving Halloween pumpkins with them, and even babysitting.
But after returning from winter break, the students noticed their neighbors were no longer visiting. When Occhipinti asked Vicki why, the response she received was chilling: Wilmeris had cancer.
Since her diagnosis, Wilmeris has been traveling to Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for treatments in three-week stages, returning home for a few weeks at a time. To lend a hand, the students have visited Wilmeris at home, assumed more babysitting duties, and pitched in to ensure Novel and Vicki have dinner when their mom is at CHOP.
But the students didn’t stop there. They also organized and inspired a number of fundraisers to help offset the medical costs and expenses incurred by Wilmeris’ family. Those efforts—which have included selling bracelets imprinted with the phrase “Nobody Fights Alone,” offering donation-based fitness classes, and running a charity basketball tournament that drew more than 50 student and staff participants—had raised close to $5,000 by the time this issue went to press, and more plans were in the works. Said Occhipinti: “This was a total TCNJ effort.”