As a cancer survivor at age 14, Chloe Staten of Talent has a unique perspective on life — one that keeps her on the lookout for ways to make life easier for families facing a nightmare she says her own family was lucky enough to escape.
Now the eighth-grader at Talent Middle School is being recognized for her unselfish approach to life. She was recently named one of Oregon's top two youth volunteers for 2012 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, which came with a $1,000 prize and all-expenses paid trip to Washington, D.C., where she'll join 100 honorees from across the country for several days of national recognition in May.
Ten of these super volunteers will be named America's top youth volunteers for 2012. But for those who know her, Chloe's already at the top of their list.
Since her diagnosis and recovery from rhabdomyosarcoma (cancer of connective tissues) more than three years ago, Chloe has focused on volunteer efforts that brighten the lives of children and families battling cancer.
When Chloe was diagnosed with the same kind of cancer as Eagle Point boy Ethan Jostad, who died in August, Chloe's mother, Ruth Staten, says the family was simply grateful to take their then-10-year-old home with only hair loss and the side effects of chemotherapy.
During her treatment, Chloe was adopted as a "sparrow" by Southern Oregon Sparrow Clubs (www.sparrowclubs.org) and partnered with Phoenix High School, her brother's school, and Central Equipment in Medford.
That experience — knowing that other kids were hoping for her recovery and doing good deeds for her family — left an indelible impression of Chloe.
"Everyone was always happy to see me and knew who I was," Chloe says. "It felt good knowing that so many people were thinking about me and wanted to help me get better."
Now in remission, Chloe set out to pay it forward: first by working with leadership students at her school to make and sell $1,000 in homemade, polar-fleece scarves to help the Jostad family, then traveling to New York for special treatments. Last year, she helped raise $600 for an Ashland High School student facing leukemia.
"I go stay with him when he's in the hospital for the day for treatments," Chloe notes.
In addition to her own fundraising, Chloe volunteers for Children's Miracle Network, answering telephones and helping with holiday fundraisers, and helps at Rogue Valley Medical Center.
Chloe's mother says her daughter's mind is always focused on helping others.
"We'll drive past the hospital, and she'll say, 'Let's go take coloring books up to the hospital' or 'Let's get cupcakes for the nurses,' " says Ruth Staten.
"Every summer, she rides with her 80-year-old grandpa to deliver meals for Food and Friends."
Chloe says she's drawn to help after realizing how good it felt to have community support when she was sick and realizing the importance of spreading the word about childhood cancer.
"I remember it being really scary because the only memory I've had of anyone having cancer was my mom's best friend, and we were really close, and she passed away four or five years ago," Chloe says.
"I only had to do treatment for six months. Even though any chemo is really hard, just knowing other kids had it worse than I did makes me want to push to help even more."
Judy Casad, a Talent Middle School secretary and advisor to leadership students, says Chloe's determination to help other students in need goes beyond anything she's ever witnessed.
"We sewed hats to raise money for her a few years ago, and now she's paying it forward helping everybody she can," Casad says.
"She's quite an incredible young lady. She's very humble, but she has a huge passion and heart for other students battling serious health conditions. She'll come to me and say, 'Do you think we can do something?' And she'll tell me who she wants to help, then she's off and running."
Chloe says she hopes her "spirit of community" award will shine a light on the importance of finding a cure for childhood cancer.
"I was pretty excited to get the letter. I had to call all my family and friends. It felt like a dream," she says.
"But what I really hope is that telling my story will help more people realize that children actually do have cancer and make more people want to try to do what they can to help."
For more information on Chloe and her volunteer efforts, see http://bit.ly/AmLcSL