In a blend of hope and sadness, laughter and grief, Angel 34 on Tuesday announced that area student-athletes will spearhead an initiative to raise more than $3 million for the fight against childhood cancer.
Angel 34, a national organization headquartered in Nazareth, was founded by Nicole Sheriff, daughter of Linda and Doug Sheriff, who lost her battle with cancer in 2004 at the age of 15. Since then, Angel 34 has grown and expanded its outreach, and the student-athlete project is the newest.
Doug Sheriff, president of Angel 34, unveiled the initiative at Lehigh Valley Hospital-Muhlenberg, where he introduced the student-athletes who have agreed to serve on the board of directors. They represent more than a dozen high schools across the Valley.
The board, which calls itself Athletes on the Field — Angels in the Community, will meet twice a month and oversee the organization’s fundraiser, which this year has a goal of $3.4 million.
» The latest on traffic, delays and road construction delivered to your mobile phone. Click to sign up to receive text alerts!
Sheriff said the students will meet with Lehigh Valley Health Network executives, doctors, nurses and social workers to learn the needs of the hospital, staff, children and their families.
“The board will then use the information to decide how to spend the funds that have been raised,” he said. “The student-athletes will donate their time, skills and passion to help make a difference in the lives of children.”
It was one of Nicole Sheriff’s long-held commitments in her short life. Her father explained that she was diagnosed with cancer when she was 14. Within a year, she lost her battle but had founded Angel 34 and infused it with her spirit of compassion and courage.
“Nicole wanted to do everything she could to help,” said Dr. J. Nathan Hagstrom, LVHN’s chairman of pediatrics. “During her battle with cancer, she displayed such courage and selflessness, she inspired everyone around her. Today, that inspiration will allow Children’s Hospital at Lehigh Valley Hospital to do even more for children with cancer.”
While now the head of Angel 34, Doug Sheriff is still Nicole’s dad, and he remembers the day she talked with her mother about her vision for the foundation. She insisted that all money raised should go toward helping children with cancer and that there should be no paid positions in the organization.
Sheriff said Troy Hein, sports anchor for WFMZ-TV 69 and host of “The Big Ticket,” and Marty Nothstein, cyclist and Olympic gold medalist, will be honorary chairmen for the fundraising initiative.
“There are some people out there you just can’t say no to,” Hein said. “Angel 34, Doug and Linda, and Nicole for me are at the top of that list.”
Nothstein implored the new board of directors to “carry that torch, make us all proud.”
Dr. Philip Monteleone, a pediatric oncologist who treated Nicole’s cancer, lauded Angel 34 and the new fundraising initiative.
“Every child with cancer touches you in different ways,” he said. “For me, Nicole was a kid who never gave up, never quit fighting, but what impressed me the most was her kindness.”
Sheriff showed a video, made this spring by Schaff’s Video, that features staff members of LVH-Muhlenberg’s hematology/oncology department, cancer patients and their families smiling, dancing, clowning around and lip-syncing to the song “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars. The three-minute video, shot in different locations in the Lehigh Valley, can be viewed on YouTube. Search for “Count on Me — Angel 34 Foundation.”
For a finishing touch to the day’s events, Sheriff presented a new coloring book, designed by Shannon Rutan of Nazareth as part of a Girl Scout project. Working with artist Natalie Hartman from ArtsQuest, Rutan created “Teddy’s Tale: A Bear’s-Eye View of Childhood Cancer.”
For more information on Angel 34, go to http://www.angel34.org.
Christy Potter is a freelance writer.
Read more: http://www.mcall.com/news/local/mc-lvh-angel-34-athletes-20140819,0,1530358.story#ixzz3AwFXx3cs
Follow us: @mcall on Twitter | mcall.lv on Facebook