Melanie Nelson, 11 of New Lenox was only 5-years-old when she was diagnosed with cancer of the muscle tissues. Today, she's been cancer-free for almost five years.
And while she'd like to forget the two surgeries to cut a tumor out of her throat and the 30 weeks of chemotherapy, she refuses to forget her friends and other kids who are still battling the disease.
This Bentley School 5th-grader is having her head shaved to raise funds for the St. Baldrick's Foundation, a non-profit organization that raises funds for childhood cancer research. The New Lenox event is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m. March 22 at the American Legion, 14414 Ford Drive. Melanie will be joining the New Lenox Police Department Team. A few years ago, the NLPD Team shaved their heads in honor of Melanie.
To a stranger it might look odd this spring when they see Melanie's bald head while she's on the field with her travel softball team, but she's not concerned. In fact, a shaved-head is her badge of honor, because she will have helped to beat the disease that has sapped so much life from the kids she gotten to know and befriend since she was first diagnosed in October 2007.
In Melanie's biography on the St. Baldrick's Foundation page, she writes: "(W)hen I was 5yrs old I was told I had cancer. I had 2 surgeries and went through chemo treatments. I was very sick, spent a lot of time in the hospital, missed lots of school, and lost my hair. … A lot of my friends from the hospital are not so lucky, some of my friends are still trying to beat cancer and be able to live a normal life. Some of my friends lost their fight. That makes me so sad."
Melanie's advice for kids enduring cancer: "Stay strong and good luck; keep fighting."
Having endured more hardship than many in her short life, Melanie set a goal to raise $2,000 to conquer this disease.
Melanie's dad, Rich Nelson, said he wasn't sold on the idea at first. "I've have had my head shaved three times and I'm doing it again this year, but I was afraid it would bring back bad memories for her."
But those big brown eyes and that smile she flashes got to him. He agreed to sign up the youngest of his four children. And he'll be there watching while that shoulder-length brown hair falls to the floor. "She's been wanting to shave her head for the last three years."
Melanie told him this year, "if I don't allow her to shave her head, she'd cut it off anyway. She's a good kid. I'm proud of her."
Melanie and friend Abby Kruizenga, a classmate from Bentley School, are going in together. Melanie says she'll be thinking about her friend, Shay, who she met in 2008 at Camp Quality, a week-long camp just for cancer kids.
The head-shaving event is still five days away and already she's surpassed her goal by 246.3 percent. She'd raised $4,925 for the cause as of March 18.
To donate to Melanie's fund-raising effort, go to the St. Baldrick's Foundation website.
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