Rebecca Skowronski was a typical high school sophomore, her days filled with studying, athletics and friends, when her mother’s breast cancer diagnosis turned everything upside-down.
“At the time I hadn’t really heard too much about cancer, at least not anyone that I was close to, especially a family member,” Rebecca said.
Her mom had surgery and appeared to have beaten it, but two years later the cancer returned. That’s when Rebecca decided to fight back. Her mom has since died of the disease.
Active in soccer, track, diving and the dance team, Becca found her opportunity in sports. She would organize a sporting event to include people with cancer and those without and get donations for the UW Carbone Cancer Center, where her mom was treated. The first event that summer, which Rebecca called Kick It to Cancer, raised $3,000.
Rebecca has seen Kick It to Cancer sprout chapters at the UW campuses in Madison (where she attends) Milwaukee and Eau Claire and at the University of Minnesota. All were started by friends. There’s even an equestrian version raising money at horse shows.
Rebecca credits her interest in giving back in part to receiving a four-year scholarship from the Ruth Williams Neabling and Richard Neabling Scholarship Fund within the Community Foundation.
“Thinking about how much the scholarship helped me,” she said, “it made it that much more exciting to be able to work on Kick It to Cancer to do something for other people.” Having the scholarship also means she doesn’t have to work as many hours, freeing up time for the charity work.
“I’m more motivated to get my homework done so I can work on Kick It to Cancer. I try to do as much for that as I can. When I’m not studying or working, I’m thinking about different things I can do to raise money for Kick It to Cancer and the cancer center. … It’s cool to see what I’ve done kind of motivate others to do things.”
Then she looked at her mom and said, “Mom, I hope you’re proud of me.” The teary-eyed smile that came in response left no doubt.