Addison Kleinhans, 13, of Broomfield, Colo., an eighth-grader at Colorado Digital Academy, has delivered more than 130 speeches to raise money for childhood cancer causes and to motivate others to stay positive in the face of adversity. Life changed dramatically for Addison a month before his sixth birthday. He had a high fever, so his mother took him to the doctor. “Sadly, we found out that I had cancer,” said Addison, who ended up undergoing 38 months of chemotherapy to treat his leukemia. One day a doctor asked if he would share his story with hospital donors. He did, describing how the hospital had become “my home,” and crediting the hospital staff with helping him “to not be scared.”
That event raised so much money that Addison was soon asked to speak at other fundraisers and events. “At first, I didn’t know what to say, but I learned all you have to do is speak from your heart,” he said. Even though some of his medications made him drowsy and he had difficulty breathing in the proper places during a speech, Addison never turned down a chance to speak; he considered it his way of giving back. Chosen as Boy of the Year by his local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, Addison helped raise tens of thousands of dollars to combat these cancers. Although he says he will continue to give speeches to raise money and awareness for childhood cancer, Addison also has begun giving motivational speeches at schools. “I am teaching others to find the bright bit of sun even on the grayest day and to remember they are not alone,” he said.