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State Honoree

Crystal Bedwell

Alabama

Crystal Bedwell, 17, of Chelsea, Ala., a senior at Chelsea High School, founded a support group for middle school children whose families have been afflicted with cancer. Crystal started C.O.P.E. (Classmates Offering Peers Encouragement) after both her mother and father were diagnosed with the disease. “I couldn’t talk with them about my concerns because I knew it would upset them,” said Crystal. She longed to share her feelings with others who would understand, but there was no such opportunity in her area. So she decided to make the road easier for other children by starting a support group. She approached her school counselor and a local grief counselor for assistance and advice on starting the group. Crystal developed an eight-week program that helps affected children discuss and understand cancer and its impact on their families, and enables them to draw inspiration from their peers. Crystal leads the C.O.P.E. sessions, and hopes to soon expand the group to all of the middle schools in her district. Eventually, her goal is to start a day camp for children across Alabama whose parents have been afflicted with cancer.