Nicholas Tasiopoulos, 17, of Green Oaks, Ill., a senior at Libertyville High School, created a volunteer organization with his sisters that has raised more than $80,000 to find a cure for the disease that took their cousin's life: pancreatic cancer. "When my cousin died at a young age, my sisters and I were devastated," said Nicholas. "The loss we endured spurred us to organize the I Want To Be a Lifesaver' organization." Initially, the siblings made necklaces in the shape of lifesaver candies and sold them to friends and family members, with the proceeds going to the Lustgarten Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.
Soon, Nicholas and his sisters were engaged in other activities to raise awareness and funds for research, and dozens of other volunteers joined their campaign. Nicholas, for example, knocked on doors to ask for donations, sat outside of local grocery stores to sell necklaces, helped host ice shows, and held silent auctions and bake sales. He also contacted local businesses and large corporations, eventually obtaining large financial commitments. He plans to start a chapter of his organization in college, and vows to "continue to raise funds until a cure has been found." "I thought I had lost hope forever when my cousin died of this horrible disease," he said, "but I now feel surrounded by that hope, nourished and encouraged to step up to any challenge with the knowledge that I have the power to make a difference."