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Homecoming queen holds brain cancer fundraiser

Sunday, March 17, 2013 7:30 PM
Last updated Monday, March 18, 2013 1:45 AM
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Even when she was under the shining lights of the football stadium, wearing a shimmering pink and gold gown and with her hair in perfect curls, Nina McCallie’s crowning as Westminster Schools of Augusta’s homecoming queen was never about her.

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Bicyclists and runners cross the finish line during the Breakaway from Brain Cancer fundraiser.  JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN/STAFF
Bicyclists and runners cross the finish line during the Breakaway from Brain Cancer fundraiser.

Before she got the crown and a bouquet of white flowers, McCallie, 18, already knew what she’d do with her platform.

In October, for her community service project, required from all homecoming queens, McCallie began organizing a fundraiser walk to benefit brain cancer patients at Georgia Re­gents Uni­ver­sity Cancer Center.

Money raised by sponsors, donors and walk participants would go toward funding care packages for brain cancer patients who are new to the often intimidating experience.

“It wasn’t as much about the title to me,” McCallie said. “I wanted to do something to impact the community around me.
I don’t place my happiness and satisfaction and self-worth in my title.”

On Sunday, about 150 people gathered at Savannah Rapids Pa­vilion for the fundraiser, where participants ran, walked and biked along the river to help do away with brain cancer.

In the five months before the event, McCallie raised about $11,000 for the cause. Sunday’s walk raised about $3,000 more, she said.

Olivier Rixe, the leader of the cancer center’s neuro-oncology program, walked in the event. He said the care packages and the thought behind such outreach affects patients in ways medicine sometimes cannot.

He said community involvement is a key component of treating the disease.

With GRU aiming to build a “world-class program” in its cancer center, Rixe said outreach must be factored in alongside treatment and research.

“The patient is not a tumor,” Rixe said. “The patient is an individual, and community support is one piece of the treatment, but it’s a big piece.”

The care packages will include books about cancer, the center and diet, along with lotions, games and other comfort items.

McCallie said she got inspiration for her cause from her uncle’s experience with brain cancer. Diag­nosed 3½ years ago,
George Inman Jr. is now in the “progression-free” phase of his cancer.

On Sunday, Inman rode his bike seven miles through the woods and greeted family and friends when he finished. He said he thought McCallie’s project will give hope to patients at the center.

In his experience, hugs from nurses and support from loved ones made each day easier.

“The medicine is the medicine; you can’t deviate from that,” Inman said. “The disease is the disease, and you can’t change that. The idea is just to give
support, the emotional support and everything you can.”

McCallie said while raising money for cancer patients was her goal, she also ended up learning about herself.

With plans to attend the University of Georgia in the fall, McCallie said almost six months of reaching out to sponsors, finding a venue and organizing a fundraiser inspired her to major in event planning.

“I loved every second of it,” she said of the organizing. “And I love helping people.”


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