Bite Me Cancer was born out of an identified gap in support for teens fighting cancer by Nikki Ferraro when she found herself in treatment for a rare form of thyroid cancer at just 17 years old.
Nikki was diagnosed with Medullary Thyroid Cancer in April 2010 when she was a junior at Chantilly High School in Virginia. From the very beginning, Nikki was determined to leverage her diagnosis for good. Within two weeks of her diagnosis she formed a Relay for Life team, which she named “Bite Me Cancer” and experienced immediate success. When Nikki decided to create a foundation a few months later, she wanted to continue the legacy of her team name and thus her foundation became the Bite Me Cancer Foundation.
Within three days of setting up her Relay team online, Nikki raised $5,000. This was exciting news as she was preparing for surgery just a few days later. Thirty friends joined her team and she was humbled by the help and enthusiasm so many brought to the relay effort. Her godmother ordered bracelets to hand out (with the team name on them and with thyroid cancer colors), and Nikki designed two t-shirts that were sold to raise money.
Despite the hesitancy of her parents, who were not in favor of Nikki participating in the relay, much less leading a team so soon after having surgery to treat the cancer, Nikki’s team finished in first place when The American Cancer Society closed the books.
And the first place finishes kept adding up. Nikki also finished first as the individual fundraiser at the event and she was the #1 online individual fundraiser for the 8-state South Atlantic Region of American Cancer Society. “The Relay for Life experience was amazing!” said Nikki.
Following the Relay in the summer of 2010, Nikki told her parents that she wanted to keep the Bite Me Cancer name alive to continue her focus of supporting teens fighting all forms and cancer and raising money for thyroid cancer research. Once again Nikki pushed her parents, who were concerned about the time and financial commitment a new foundation would require, especially given their on-going focus on their daughter’s cancer diagnosis and treatment. But Nikki prevailed, and the foundation was created. Nikki jumped in on every aspect of forming a foundation, from establishing the foundation’s mission and goals, to understanding and executing the legal processes, to designing the logo and layout of the new foundation’s website.
Nikki and her parents are grateful for all the pro bono consultants (legal, financial, web design), volunteers, board members and advisory council members who made it possibly to form that foundation, and whose continued support is ensuring Bite Me Cancer’s on-going success.
Nikki believes that it is very important to support teens with cancer because she didn’t find much support when she was diagnosed and in treatment. The pediatric and adult programs didn’t address her needs, and she knew that other teens would have the same experience. Nikki also wanted her foundation to raise awareness and research funds for thyroid cancer as it is the fastest growing cancer in the United States.
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Sara Barokas*, Ken Bartee, Keegan Berber* (Student Advisory Group), Vanessa Goncalvez Bonadie (Teen Support Committee), Jeanine Callahan, Adam Castleman (past treasurer of Bite Me Cancer), Andrew Clements (Finance/Operations Committee), Gina Cocomello, Brett Coffee, Maureen Crain (Teen Support Committee), Peter Crain, (Finance/Operations Committee), Joanne DiCesare*, Rachel DiCesare* (Student Advisory Group), Stephanie Eberhart (Teen Support Committee), Sharon Gleason (Events/Fundraising Committee), April Goff (Events/Fundraising Committee), Kristie Hayes (Student Advisory Group), Julianne Holmblad (Student Advisory Group), Bill Hoover, Melissa Hunter (Events/Fundraising Committee), Michael Kaiser (Events/Fundraising Committee), Renee Bouchard (Events/Fundraising Committee), JD Kathuria, Traci Kendall (Co-chair, Events/Fundraising Committee), Jay Liwanag, Lois Lyons, Chris Lorek (Finance/Operations Committee), Jackie Matuza (Events/Fundraising Committee), Shannon McKernin (Teen Support Committee), Gaby Melideo (Communications Committee), Alison McKnight (Events/Fundraising Committee), Darren McKnight (Events/Fundraising Committee), Lisa Nicholls (Communications Committee), Robert Paine (Communications Committee), Delegate Ken Plum, 36th District, Virginia General Assembly, Shannon Powers (Communications Committee), Rich & Gina Raley, Parents of Thyroid Cancer Survivor, Vanessa Runnells*, Tom Rust, Holly Senn, Lesa Short* & Mom of Thyroid Cancer Survivor, Kathy Smith, Sully District Board of Supervisors, Fairfax County, Colleen Gillis Snow, Jen Sterling, Lauri Swift, Tim Summers (Finance/Operations Committee), Betsy Valentino, Debijo Wheatley, (Communications Committee), Jean White, Pat Wirth, Laura Youngs, (Events/Fundraising Committee)
*Thyroid Cancer Survivor