Helping Works

Helping Works by Anna Webb: Essay contest winners give voice to cancer in Idaho

Anna Webb.
Anna Webb.

The Cancer Connection Idaho’s recent Write from the Heart teen essay contest inspired young writers from across the Valley to write honestly, and sometimes painfully, about cancer, whether it be their own or that of someone close to them. Congratulations to the young writers.

The winners in the Survivor Category are Kaylee Clark from Boise in the age 16-19 group and Natalee Lake from Osburn in the age 13-15 group. Miranda Stansbery from Fruitland and Kenzie Tanner from Boise won second and third place, respectively, in the age 16-19 group.

Kate Jacobson of Boise won first place in the Friends and Family Category in the age 13-15 group. Hailey Jackson of Eagle won first place in the age 16-19 group. Rebecca Tabb of Boise won third place in the 16-19 group.

Here are excerpts from two of the winning pieces. Read these and other pieces in their entirety on the organization’s website.

“Momma Bird” by Hailey Jackson

For three years my life consists of bright white walls that reek of sterilizers and latex gloves. Day old coffee, stiff seated waiting rooms, black tea and honey packets, and constant worry. I sit by her bed watching the world crumble before my eyes; I cannot bare it any longer. I’m not strong enough to watch my Mother’s life decay. I have to run, I have to distract myself. An adventure of the saddest kind is pursued daily to discover this building of tragedies and miracles. Over time I find things to do: Floor 3’s coffee tastes best; floor 5’s waiting room is a jackpot of hot cocoa packets, three kinds of tea bags and hot water. Floor 4 has real creamer for your coffee, and honey packets for your tea. Floor 7 has a fish tank with a bright orange puffer fish I have taken it on myself to name Billy. I watch him in his tiny box of water trapped and alone, and only see his situation reflect mine. Floor 9 has my favorite painting of colorful horses running free and blissful. Floor 10 has the best view of the city, and a bench to watch the world go by beneath you. I spend a lot of time on floor 10. I distract myself by memorizing every inch of the building of tragedies and miracles.

“Untitled” by Kaylee Clark

There are plenty of movies made about cancer and hospitals but there are things that movies just don’t prepare you for, like considering what underwear to wear when you show up to be examined in the emergency room. I, of course, did not think of this and arrived wearing ones that said “Thanks for visiting,” right on my behind. The nurses sure got a kick out of it as they examined my crack. You’re welcome, guys. No one can prepare you for the small side effects of cancer. You always hear about the nausea, but no one tells you about having to get up and pee five times in the night, or the numbness that occurs in your hands, or how ugly and uncomfortable you feel after being puffed up by steroids for a month. And then there is the hair. For some guys it might not be as hard, but I think for girls it is difficult to lose your hair. No matter how many times the nurses or your mom tell you that you are still beautiful, it’s just hard to accept. Looking in the mirror gives a shock, and every time I take a shower I still try to take my hair out of a bun.

A bald head shouts, “Hey everybody! I have cancer,” this is usually answered by a pity smile that makes me feel worse. I was never upset at those people, I knew they were only trying to be courteous, but I couldn’t help but feel looked down on. I tried to look on the positive side and was excited to learn how to tie headscarves and make it interesting. I also gave the middle finger to cancer by cutting and dying my hair in a manner I would’ve never had the guts to do before; it was gonna fall out anyway. Of course the mourning of your hair means nothing when you’re in pain, but on a day when you’re feeling halfway decent, these are the things you worry about.

A number of local organizations, including the Idaho Women’s Charitable Foundation, One Stone and Graeber and Company, supported the writing contest. The Cancer Connection of Idaho provides an array of non-medical support for those touched by cancer. Learn more about available programs online.

Idaho Community Foundation grant cycles open; deadline July 1

The Idaho Community Foundation’s Southwest Region competitive grant cycle is now open for Ada, Adams, Blaine, Boise, Camas, Canyon, Cassia, Elmore, Gem, Gooding, Jerome, Lincoln, Minidoka, Owyhee, Payette, Twin Falls, Valley and Washington counties. The deadline to apply is July 1.

In 2014, ICF awarded $212,000 to 111 nonprofit organizations through this grant cycle. New and previous applicants are eligible to apply.

ICF will also be accepting applications from the same counties to the Idaho Future Fund from now until July 1. The Idaho Future Fund gives grants for preschool scholarships, public schools, charter schools and public school libraries.

For the Southwest Region Competitive Grant Cycle, organizations may apply for up to $5,000. Individuals are not eligible for the regional grant program. Grant areas include, but are not limited to, arts and culture, libraries, conservation, health, social services and more.

Distribution of grants will begin in December.

Get more information and apply online or email, or call 342-3535 or (800) 657-5357.

Looking for a few good books?

Get recommendations from the experts when the Boise Public Library’s Hillcrest branch presents its May Conversations program to prepare for the 2015 Summer Fest Reading Program. Library staff will recommend new and favorite titles from several areas of interest. The discussion, which will focus on nonfiction, will take place from 1 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 30, in the library’s Lemhi Room.

The Hillcrest branch is located in the Hillcrest Shopping Center at Orchard Street and Overland Road. For more information, call 972-8340.

May 21: Nonprofit Resource Thursday

The Idaho Nonprofit Center hosts Nonprofit Resource Thursdays on the third Thursday of every month at the Boise Library, 715 S. Capitol Blvd., in Boise from 4 to 6 p.m. on the 3rd floor.

Experts are on hand to answer questions about fundraising, governance, management and startups. Each session offers a roundtable discussion on a variety of topics beginning at 4:30 p.m. The topic this Thursday is “Finding Balance in Your Board” with speaker Will Northrup of What-If-Concepts. Resource Thursdays are free, and all are welcome.

Preservation Idaho talk on North End houses

Historian and Preservation Idaho board member Dan Everhart will speak on an always-popular topic: the houses of Boise’s North End, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 19, at the Idaho History Center, 2205 Old Penitentiary Road.

His talk, titled “Drawing from Dixon’s: The Residential Architecture of J. Cecil Jordan,” will explore the career and design work of Boisean Jordan.

Everhart has studied Jordan’s life and work while sorting, cataloguing and identifying Jordan’s architectural plans housed at the Idaho State Archives. The talk is free and open to the public.

Knock Knock, Who’s There?

The United Healthcare Children’s Foundation is collecting children’s favorite knock-knock jokes and riddles for two upcoming joke books set to be released on World Smile Day, Oct. 2. The books will be available for sale, given out to hospitalized children, and will raise money for grants to help families pay for their children’s health care needs.

Children 17 and under, with the help of a parent/legal guardian, can submit their jokes online on the UHCCF website. The deadline to submit is May 31.

UHCCF will confirm via email if a child’s joke has been selected and included in the book, and, with permission from a legal guardian, will print the child’s first name, last initial, city and state with the published joke.

Sawtooth Society’s Austin Kraal Memorial program seeks volunteers

When Austin Kraal, a longtime trail crew volunteer in the Sawtooths, died in 2011, his parents, Kevin and Debi Kraal, in partnership with the Sawtooth Society, started a volunteer program in his honor. The program, which is open to youth and adults, is looking for volunteers.

Since the program’s beginning, volunteers from across Southern Idaho have traveled to the Sawtooths to build fences, plant shrubs, tear down barbed wire and clean campsites.

“Anyone can be a part of the volunteer program,” volunteer coordinator Kelly Conde said. “There are projects for everyone.”

Conde said she is looking for groups in particular to participate in this year’s projects, though individuals are also encouraged to sign up. If this is a fit for you, email Conde for more information at