By Ellen Bartyzal
White Bear Lake Youth Football. Wrestling For Autism. Angel Foundation.
These three organizations each received a $100 donation this summer from 17 year-old Christian Hancock, a White Bear Lake football player looking to give back to local organizations that have personally impacted his life.
This defensive lineman has been playing football since he was in fourth grade and is now a member of the White Bear Lake high school team. His Head Coach, Ryan Bartlett, requires that all players in grades 10 through 12 do community service projects and their hours are determined by grade level.
For service projects the last few years, Christian has: planted trees at a local park; helped with the local youth football league registration and equipment preparation; unloaded trucks and sorted boxes at a church food ministry; and has done several landscaping projects in his neighborhood.
This year, he wanted to help those who had helped him, so he decided to use his hours to host his own garage sale fundraiser which would support local organizations.
“We were throwing around ideas…and we’ve been planning on doing a garage sale for a couple years, so me and my dad came up with the idea of [hosting] a garage sale and donating the proceeds to charities that had been a part of our lives the past couple years,” Christian said.
Christian spent about 50 hours preparing for the garage sale and hosting it. His fundraiser raised $300 divided evenly between the White Bear Lake Youth Football Program, Wrestling For Autism, and the Angel Foundation—each of which had offered something different to the Hancock family.
White Bear Lake Youth Football helped the Hancocks with financial arrangements when they had three boys playing football at different levels at the same time. Wresting For Autism allowed them to learn more about kids on the autism spectrum that wrestle competitively. This group also helped open a conversation between the Hancocks and other families by allowing a space for shared experiences about how to approach the sport of wrestling.
Angel Foundation offered something entirely different—financial aid for the family after Angie received her cancer diagnosis.
In 2015, Angie was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma and could no longer work as a registered nurse. She received chemotherapy treatment for seven months, surgery, and even radiation when the cancer came back in her lungs.
Angie sought care at Minnesota Oncology’s Maplewood Cancer Center, a place that she said made her diagnosis a little easier to handle at the time.
“Everybody was really good there,” she said. “They all were very professional and caring. The nurses were uplifting. It made it so much easier to go through it when the people care about you—it makes a big difference.”
One member of Angie's care team that she was particularly fond of was Dr. Vladimir Hugec, her primary provider. Angie said throughout her journey, he always did the right thing by her and her family.
“When he had bad news he just kind of took his time, and he answered all my questions. Once he actually told me that he wanted to make sure I was getting what I needed, so he said he was up in the middle of the night looking at my charts,” she said.
Another member of the Minnesota Oncology staff who helped Angie and her family was Lisa Thelemann, one of Minnesota Oncology’s Social Workers. After recognizing the hard hit that Angie’s diagnosis had on her family, both emotionally and financially, Lisa introduced the Hancocks to Angel Foundation.
This foundation is a Twin-Cities based nonprofit organization that provides emergency financial assistance, education, and support to local adult cancer patients and their families. Since 2001, Angel Foundation has provided more than $7 million in emergency financial assistance and over 25,000 services to local individuals.
Their Emergency Financial Assistance Program provides funding for non-medical basic needs such as food, gas, utilities, and housing payments. This program provided the Hancock’s with gift cards for groceries and other expenses when Angie was diagnosed.
“It was pretty amazing because I wasn’t expecting to get anything right away and they had that money…not even a week later,” Angie said. “It was really a big deal that it came when it did because we needed it right away…my husband is disabled as well, so we really had only what he had coming in.”
Angie said receiving financial assistance from the Angel Foundation made her cancer journey the best that it could be, considering the circumstances.
“It took the money part of it out of the equation so we didn’t have to worry about that,” she said.
“[The funding] was really kind of a relief,” Christian added. “Any sort of help we were able to get—it was kind of a weight off of our shoulders.”
Today, Angie is in remission and she has been for the last year and a half. Her family is doing better, and they are thankful for the help they received while she was sick, especially from the Angel Foundation.
“The most important thing [now] is that I would like to thank the groups that we are donating to for their help,” Christian said. “I hope that they can do the same for others.”