By now, most people are aware that breast cancer exists. But did you know that breast cancer in women under age 50 is becoming more prevalent? There are several types of breast cancer that affect young women, including an aggressive form called Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC). TNBC affects women ages 20 to 50, and is prone to spreading throughout the body. While the percentage of young women diagnosed with breast cancer increases every year, it is rarely studied. One Griffin School sixth-grader wants that to change.

olympia furnitureAlea Ricklefs is a middle school student with a mission. She wants to educate young women about breast cancer, while also raising money for research pertaining to TNBC. When asked what inspired Alea to raise funds for TNBC research, she said, “My mom was diagnosed with TNBC this spring at the age of 44. I’ve been there for every part of her journey, from the night she found the lump, through her diagnosis, chemotherapy, two surgeries, radiation, and many side effects. I knew I wanted to raise money for TNBC research a couple months after her diagnosis because I wanted to help other women in the same situation.”

tnbc fundraiser
Alea Ricklefs displays the hat she wore in support of the TNBC Foundation fundraiser at Griffin School.

Alea focused her fundraising efforts on the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation. “My mom got a second opinion at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and brought home some resources. I was looking through a packet of organizations that support breast cancer (research) and found the TNBC Foundation as an online resource. It was the only resource that focused on TNBC, so I went to the website to check it out. When I saw all of the amazing things they were doing, I knew I wanted to fundraise for them,” she said.

Alea decided the best way to raise money for the TNBC Foundation was through a school fundraiser. Not only would she be able reach a lot of people to ask for support, but she would be spreading the word about TNBC to the young moms in her community. Alea met with Vice Principal, Doug Anderson, and Finance Administrator, Melody Simmons, to come up with a plan. They decided to have a hat day. Alea gathered information about the TNBC Foundation, made some flyers to promote the fundraiser, and presented the idea to the Griffin Associated Student Body. It was very well received.

Normally, hats cannot be worn inside Griffin School. However, on November 4, 2016, students and staff were encouraged to bring in $2 to wear a hat of their choice in support of the TNBC Foundation. Some participants donated additional funds to support the cause. By the end of the day, Griffin School had raised $765 for the TNBC Foundation. Alea was delighted to see how many people wore hats in support of the fundraiser. Even students and staff that forgot their hats wore the pink ribbon stickers she provided for everyone.

tnbc fundraiser
Alea’s Language Arts teacher, Ms. Heather Morton (far right, standing) and classmates joined her in supporting the TNBC Foundation.

While Alea was coordinating the fundraiser, an anonymous donor offered to match the funds they raised at school. After the fundraiser was complete, her benefactor was so impressed by the school’s support that they donated $1,500 to the TNBC Foundation. Ultimately, Alea’s fundraiser contributed $2,300 to TNBC research and awareness.

Alea is determined to educate young women about breast cancer. When asked what she would want them to know, she said, “I want people to know that no woman is too young to get breast cancer. Be familiar with your body and if you find something out of the ordinary, go get it checked out. Lumps can’t wait until it’s convenient to get them checked out.”

Breast cancer in young women is often more aggressive than the types of breast cancer seen in older women. The tumors grow faster and the cancer can spread to the lymph nodes and throughout the body in a shorter period of time, as is the case with TNBC. As with all breast cancer, early detection is the key to survival.

tnbc fundraiser
Alea is grateful for all of the people involved in the treatments that saved her mom’s life. Photo credit: Debbie Robinson.

Alea’s excited to do more to support the fight against breast cancer for all women. “I want to participate in the October 2017 Making Strides against Breast Cancer in downtown Olympia with my mom,” she said. According to the American Cancer Society’s website, “Making Strides against Breast Cancer is a celebration of survivorship – an occasion to express hope and our shared determination to make this breast cancer’s last century.”

Alea coordinated a fundraiser for a worthy cause, and brought awareness of TNBC to her community. Her teachers and friends were impressed with her accomplishment, but nobody could be more proud than her family. I should know… I’m her mom.

To learn more about TNBC, or to donate to the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation, please visit their website.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email