Miracle Months of Summer

Ten-year-old Karen Nickoli’s cancer is now in remission.
Ten-year-old Karen Nickoli’s cancer is now in remission.

By Tiffany Hall

How can you tell it’s May in Alaska? The sun is shining, the grass is greening, and balloons fill the sky… at Costco. Paper balloons, that is! May kicks off the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals’ biggest fundraising season, which lasts throughout the summer at a variety of locations. There are a million reasons to support CMNH, but today I’ll highlight one: Karen.

Karen Nickoli is a playful 10-year-old from Russian Mission, a small Yup’ik village near Bethel. She woke up with a fever one day and found out she had cancer the next. Providence houses the only children’s hospital in the state so Karen would be staying in Anchorage for her care. Scared and far from home, Karen and her mom could hardly wait for the rest of their family to join them.

Over the course of a year, Karen had many blood transfusions and rounds of chemotherapy. Relatives sent subsistence foods like salmon and moose for Karen to eat when her treatment made other foods taste bad. Educators at the children’s hospital kept Karen and her sisters caught up with their school work. The family stayed at Providence Hickel House for months, thankful to have a place to call home so close to the hospital. They went back to Russian Mission for Christmas but had to return to Anchorage to finish treatments. They missed so much – their friends, weddings and funerals, normal life – but it was worth it. Karen is now in remission.

Karen works on a lesson with in-hospital teacher Christianne Morgan at The Children’s Hospital at Providence.
Karen played games with child life specialist Joanna Davis each day during her stay at The Children’s Hospital at Providence.

Providence Hickel House, as well as the in-hospital teachers and the child life specialists who were with Karen every step of her journey, are all funded by charitable contributions. Many of these donations were raised by CMNH fundraisers, when generous people in the community gave a dollar at a time to support sick and injured kids across Alaska.

So, how can you help? I’m glad you asked!

We have so many wonderful community partners that it is easy to participate – simply buy a balloon at any of the following locations:

  • Costco – May
  • Tesoro 2Go – May and June (Buy a one-liter Pepsi product and a portion of sales goes to CMNH)
  • WalMart and Sam’s Club – May 7-June 21
  • Providence – June
  • Ace Hardware on Muldoon Road – July
  • Credit Union 1 – July
  • ALPS Federal Credit Union (Sitka), Alaska District Engineers Federal Credit Union, Denali Alaskan Federal Credit Union, Matanuska Valley Federal Credit Union (Mat-Su Valley), and Northern Skies Federal Credit Union – Aug. 1-Sept. 18
  • Subway – September
  • RE/MAX – year round (Ask your realtor about making your house a Miracle Home)

If you would like to learn more about Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals or The Children’s Hospital at Providence, or if you would like to get involved, please contact Tiffany Hall at 907-212-2013 or tiffany.hall@providence.org. I feel so grateful to be part of such a caring community – thank you for all you do!