February 12, 2018

My Platform: Circles of Support

The Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen Organizations require each contestant to have a platform. Circles of Support, my platform, is a program I started to help support cancer patients and their families as they fight the terrible war against cancer. However, it had to start somewhere.

Back in 4th grade, my dad was diagnosed with Hodgkins lymphoma cancer. It had built up inside of his lymph nodes during the time that he was fighting West Nile, a few months before being diagnosed with cancer. Now, as a fourth grader, I didn’t quite realize what cancer was at the time. I don’t remember much of that time either. The biggest memory that stood out in my mind was watching everyone else in my family becoming so much more somber throughout the next few months, but I didn’t understand why. I always sat there thinking “He’s dad. He’ll make it through. He always does!” So I, a careless fourth grader, hardly spent any time thinking about it. I was there for my dad, talking with him when he had chemo treatments in the hospitals and such. Soon enough, my carefree thought process proved true—he was cleared of cancer roughly two years later. That wasn’t the end of it though. In the summer of 2014 my family and I were on vacation in Washington D.C.. My brother and sister had just moved into their colleges, so it was just me left in the house. In D.C., it was my mother, father, and myself. My father had been struggling walking a simple two miles, when we had formerly been able to walk 10 miles in the mountains. It wasn’t him “getting old;” we knew that. He hardly ate anything for the remainder of the trip, when we typically ate like horses because we were out exploring. Upon our return back home, our family set up an appointment. Dreadfully, he was diagnosed with the same Hodgkins lymphoma cancer for the second time, building up in his spleen and minorly in his lymph nodes. It turns out that the cat scan from the first round of cancer struggles to see through the material of the spleen, so it missed the small amount of cancer that remained in his spleen. It spent the next 2 years building up, eventually leading to his spleen growing to the size of the basketball. This announcement was much more difficult for me. As a freshman in high school at that point, I understood what cancer was and what its effects are. I took it much harder this time, and with my older siblings gone, it was my mom’s and my duty to help my dad face this a second time. This war was a much more vicious one. Over the course of the next year, my dad had his spleen removed, went through multiple chemo treatments, and then spent a month in the hospital receiving an analogous bone marrow transplant. Throughout the entire battle, I realized how difficult it is for the family to face this battle as well. The support system of the cancer patient is the most crucial part of the battle. It was important for my mom and I to spend as much time with him as possible, even if the majority of the time he was sleeping. It was hard, watching him face that battle and knowing I could only hold his hand as he let the doctors do their work.

This is what inspired me to choose my platform. I know what each and every family goes through. I know that each family has their own personal struggles, and each family has their own needs. During my dad’s second round of cancer, I relied on my friends and other relatives to drive me to where I needed to be. I relied on them to help take care of our family pets, grab the mail—little things like that. When nobody is home for a good month because they’re too busy urging the cancer warrior through the battle, a home falls apart. Circles of Support is all about spreading awareness of what people in the community, friends, and distant family can do to help the family and cancer patient during their battle. Additionally, I work with organizations to help donate comfort packages for cancer patients. In these packages, they receive all the little things they need—germ-ex, nail files, ear plugs, etc.—for a long hospital stay. I’ve created T-shirts that have zippers down the side for easy removal when needed. That way, the cancer patient can be in the hospital in the comfort of their own clothes, yet the doctors and nurses can also have easy access to the patient’s body as needed. All of these things help the cancer patient and their family stand strong and make it through their battle. After all, the little things are what make a big difference.

With the remainder of my year of service, I have set up multiple meetings with Girl Scout troops to help educate them on the importance of being passionate about something, like I am with Circles of Support. I will be making care packages with them in order to show them that even at a young age, they can still save lives.

The platform is what us Miss America and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen women are all about— promoting making a positive difference in our community. I’ve seen the difference that my platform makes, and I cannot wait to continue promoting Circles of Support.



Grace Stanke

Miss Wisconsin’s Outstanding Teen 2017