Alumni Spotlight: Valerie Nguyen – HOBY Virginia, 2016

Valerie Nguyen – HOBY Alumna, Virginia, 2016


“Before attending HOBY, I was confused what my true passion was in life. In History class, my mind always wandered off to what I could be doing for childhood cancer. Because I knew I was a “blue” style leader from HOBY, I was able to play my strengths of “people skills” with the sponsors that I met and I was able to effectively collaborate with diverse peers on my club’s leadership team. Already, HOBY has left a huge impact on me in just a year and I know it will only increase as time goes on.”


When her sister, Cecilia, passed away after battling childhood cancer, Valerie passionately channeled her energy into raising awareness and support for organizations that help fight this disease. What started with hat sales and holiday party fundraisers turned into the Festival to Fight Cancer – a one-day event that Valerie started from scratch, packed with races, food, carnival activities, and a showcase of local childhood cancer associations with which attendees could get involved.

“It’s two o’clock in the morning on a school night and my mother knocks abruptly on the door and she tells me, “it’s time.” Half asleep, I prepare myself for the inevitable. I prepare for the last moments before my sister’s death. After a long four-year battle, cancer won. But my sister was freed, and I took the fallout. Each year over 40,000 children undergo cancer treatment. This not only includes the already horrific side effects of pain, but also the emotional burden that is placed on the patient’s loved ones as well. I was fortunate enough to attend Special Love’s “BRASS Camp” for Siblings of Childhood Cancer patients. Because of BRASS Camp, during my sophomore year of high school, I founded the Wildcats vs. Cancer club in order to raise awareness and support for childhood cancer.”

Valerie used an activity from HOBY about understanding different personal leadership styles to maximize the diversity and strengths of her volunteers, making her event an even greater success. She used bathroom breaks during school to make calls to sponsors, checked emails every spare moment she had, and skipped coffee trips with her friends to have meetings to coordinate the event.

“We have done everything from hat drives to hosting holiday parties, but it didn’t just stop there. After my sister’s death, I pushed even harder by putting together a “1 mile Fun Run and 2 mile Race” called the “Festival to Fight Cancer” to benefit Special Love.  After over a year of preparation, this event took place this past June 10th, 2016 with over 110 high schoolers involved, 54 sponsors, a turnout of over 150 participants race day and over $17,000 dollars raised. Not only was the Festival a race, it also included many fun aspects such as carnival games and food on top of a showcase of local childhood cancer organizations for my community to get involved in. Although Cecilia is no longer here, her spirit lives on through my work with childhood cancer.