Meet Nikki Ferraro, a graduated senior at Chantilly High School who was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer last year. After her diagnosis, Nikki formed the “Bite Me Cancer” Relay for Life team for the American Cancer Society; her team received first place and Nikki was the top fundraiser at the event. She was also the top fundraiser for the 2011 Relay event. Nikki, along side her parents, now run a nonprofit called Bite Me Cancer. Nikki plans on attending James Madison University in the Fall.
WashingtonExec: Where did the idea for the foundation and the name “Bite Me Cancer” come from?
Nikki Ferraro: I was diagnosed with a rare form of thyroid cancer in April 2010. Within a few weeks, I had decided to form a Relay for Life team to raise money for the American Cancer Society. The “Bite Me Cancer” name came to me as I was putting my team together. I received so much financial and emotional support for me for the Relay. My team ended up in first place, and I was the #1 individual fundraiser. I even received an American Cancer Society award for being the #1 individual online fundraiser for the 2010 Relay season in the South-Atlantic Division. The South-Atlantic Division represents VA, DC, MD, WV, DE, NC, SC and GA.
After the Relay took place in June, I didn’t want that support to end. I thought that I could put that support to good use by continuing efforts to raise money to fight cancer. In July, I started talking to my parents (Sharon and Michael Ferraro of TRAINING SOLUTIONS, Inc.) about helping to start a foundation. We decided that the “Bite Me Cancer” should remain, and we went ahead to form the foundation.
WashingtonExec: What were some of the early challenges with starting the foundation?
Nikki Ferraro: All of the legal and financial processes needed to be in place, and we were so lucky to have experts who offered to help us (register the name, set up our Virginia corporation, our financial records and the IRS Form 2023). It was still a lot of work for my parents. We also had to design a foundation logo and website, which also took a lot of time. We talked to many people to gather ideas for what should be on the website. Also we wanted to form a strong board of directors, so my parents reached out to their business colleagues. Both my mother and father are graduates of Leadership Fairfax, and they were able to find some great individuals in LFI to join our board. Actually, of our current board of 9 members, 6 are LFI graduates.
WashingtonExec: What are your main goals for the foundation?
Nikki Ferraro: I really want to raise money for thyroid cancer research and education. Thyroid cancer is the fasted growing cancer in this country over the past five years. More children are also getting diagnosed with this disease, and so many doctors aren’t looking for it in children. Thyroid cancer treatment is much trickier than people think.
I also want to help teens with cancer, through financial and emotional support (not just those with thyroid cancer). I want the “Bite Me Cancer” attitude to become very popular, and I’ve designed my own t-shirts to sell to raise money. We also have many “Bite Me Cancer” items on our CafePress site to also raise money.
WashingtonExec: How did your Relay for Life experience go this year?
Nikki Ferraro: It was amazing. My “Bite Me Cancer” team finished in second place, and I was the #1 individual fundraiser for the event. It was really rewarding. The event was so fulfilling, and it was great to meet so many amazing people who shared their own cancer stories. Also, Delegate Ken Plum came to present me with a special Virginia Resolution that had been introduced to the General Assembly by Mr. Plum as well as Delegate Tom Rust and Delegate Jim LeMunyon.
WashingtonExec: Can you share any other highlights of this past year regarding your medical situation or the foundation?
Nikki Ferraro: I was very happy to be awarded the 2010 Leadership Fairfax Non-Profit Educational Leadership Award. It was an amazing honor. I also received a very special resolution from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in November. I love it when people tell me that I’ve inspired them or that they love my foundation name or that they want to buy t-shirts, wristbands or other items. It’s been an amazing year!
WashingtonExec: Can you give me an update on your medical situation and your school plans?
Nikki Ferraro: My Johns Hopkins doctor says that I’m doing great. He’s amazed at my progress over the past year. Everything is stable, so he said that I should do everything that I want to for college. I’m going to attend James Madison University in the Fall; and I’m very excited. I want to major in Marketing. I will still stay very involved with the foundation, since that is a special lifelong mission for me.