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State Honoree

Melissa Stoupa

Nebraska

Melissa Stoupa, 18, of Omaha, Neb., a senior at Brownell-Talbot School, created “Hats Off To Kids,” a program that gives new baseball hats to children undergoing treatment for cancer and organ transplants at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. “Have you ever looked into the face of a child who has cancer?” she said. “My inspiration comes from their hope, courage, and perseverance.” During the past year, more than $25,000 in donations helped “Hats Off To Kids” provide new baseball hats, visits and smiles to 150 patient-recipients each month. In addition to the support of area businesses, churches and individuals, the March of Dimes regularly donates hats and other materials. A recent anonymous $1,000 donation, plus a grant from the Hospital Auxiliary, guaranteed hats for 720 more children through June of 2001. Once a week, Melissa pushes a specially designed IV pole holding about 40 hats down the hallways of the children’s ward. “The smiles are priceless – a moment of sunshine in a dark situation,” Melissa said. “A smile is an expression of hope. I’m honored to share in this joy.”