Shanna Decker, 17, of Plainview, Minn., a senior at Plainview-Elgin-Millville High School, has made more than 600 visits to young cancer patients over the past nine years to give them hope and inspire them with her own cancer experience. When she was 7 years old, Shanna had her leg amputated and underwent a year of aggressive chemotherapy for bone cancer. "During this time, I made the decision to take a tragic situation in my life and somehow turn it into a positive experience," she said. "Because I knew how hard it was to travel this lonely road alone, I was determined to make a difference in the lives of others."
She asked her doctors if they could put her in touch with other young cancer patients, so that she could visit them. Since then, Shanna has devoted more than 300 hours a year to providing hope and support to children from around the world. "When a cancer survivor walks into the room, patients have a renewed sense of hope, their fears subside, smiles form, and a life-long bond is established," she explained. During her visits, Shanna delivers "Hearts of Hope" boxes containing gifts and inspirational materials, along with a personal message and picture. She also shares her story as a guest speaker at numerous events, and has participated in fund-raising activities that have generated more than $120,000 to better the lives of those less fortunate.