Wearing hot pink and a smile, Madison Zenker, 13, confidently walks into the pediatric infusion center at UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center carrying bags of colorful pillowcases, each one as bright as she is. She helps cancer patient, Bryan Garcia, 11, choose one with dogs on it for his bedroom.
Madison made a carnival-themed pillowcase for her Great Aunt, Willie Garrett, who died from ovarian cancer in 2009. Garrett loved it and brought it to all her cancer treatments and hospital stays. This inspired Madison, at age 10, to found Cases for Cheer, a non-profit that gifts handmade pillowcases to cancer patients.
"I feel so accomplished," Madison says. "When I see their smiles, I feel so amazing. I know I can't cure cancer but I can make people with cancer happy."
At only 13-years-old Madison has learned a lesson that many adults haven't: that giving of oneself not only helps the other person but it makes your own life happier too. She's confident and excited about her future. "I can't wait to grow up doing this my whole life and watching it grow," she said. Madison active in leadership roles in her school and says that Cases for Cheer has made her a more caring person with a better work ethic.
"She's really blossomed personally seeing people fighting for their lives," said her mother, Jennifer Zenker. Not only that but Madison is not afraid of cancer herself, because the mystery of the disease has been taken out of it.
Madison's creation is now incorporated as officially a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. She has an army of sewing enthusiasts who sew pillowcases to add to her cause. In the past three years they have delivered about 2000 pillowcases to cancer units. To find out how you can get involved visit www.casesforcheer.org.
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