On September 1, Milwaukers will go “over the edge” in the fight against childhood cancer.
That’s the day the MACC fund helps kick off Childhood Cancer Awareness Month by hosting the Over the Edge Rappelling Event at Wintrust Commercial Bank at 731 N. Jackson St.
According to the MACC Fund, Over the Edge fundraisers for nonprofits have raised more than $ 100 million since 2008.
Participants will raise money by rappelling 45 meters down the side of the 10-story building. Each of them has agreed to raise at least $ 1,500 (with a goal of $ 3,000) for the MACC fund to make the descent.
One of those rappellers is 20-year-old Hollyn Peterson.
At age 5, Peterson – a Waukesha West graduate who is currently studying for her BFA-Fine Arts with a view to becoming a teacher – was diagnosed with Wilms tumor, a form of kidney cancer that often affects children under 10.
She relapsed twice, at age 7 and again at age 8, and had a kidney transplant. Hollyn Peterson with her boyfriend Montana. X
“I have several long-term side effects from the battle against childhood cancer that often affect my life every day, but I try not to dwell on them,” said Peterson, who has a 4.0 GPA at UW-Whitewater and is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do.
“I’m taking part in Over the Edge in honor of my friends who are also survivors, my friends who are angels, and the friends I haven’t met yet. I spread awareness and raise money for better treatments that will hopefully lead to a cure for cancer that also eliminates any long-term side effects.
‘No child should face what I have done. No child should miss their childhood growing up in a hospital bed, which is why I am an advocate of childhood cancer. ”
The road to her success today has been long and arduous, Peterson recalls.
“Childhood cancer because it has affected my family, education, friendships, interests and confidence,” she says. “It wasn’t just my life that was affected, but my four siblings and parents as well. Our family was split in two, my mother or father was with me while the other was at home with my brothers and sisters. Together we have endured many struggles, which have now made us closer and stronger. ”
Peterson missed more than 650 days of school, which meant she struggled with basics like reading, and those absences, plus her hospital stays, made it difficult to maintain friendships.
“I’ve missed a lot of fun excursions, sleepovers and birthday parties,” she says. “I loved Tae Kwon Do, swimming and football, but the treatment made it hard to cope.”
When doctors told her at age 5 that she might not be able to run, she fought back and earned her black belt, became a cheerleader for varsity, and did hip-hop dancing.
“I lost faith when I lost my hair,” says Peterson. “It took me a while to learn to love my bald head and that it was a sign of strength. My goal now is to help cancer patients see their beauty in baldness and their scars. ”
When doctors suggested studying ballet to build strength and stamina at the age of 9, she met dance instructor Kate Moody at the Liberty Dance Center in Waukesha. Kate Moody from Liberty Dance Center. X
“We met up with Miss Kate to see if I could get to her studio and she was more than happy to have me,” says Peterson. Miss Kate was so passionate about dancing that her excitement was infectious. She was very encouraging, which is exactly what I needed. Liberty Dance Center is more than just a dance studio, it is a family that welcomed me. I found love in hip hop (dancing). ”
Dancing at Liberty with Moody not only provided the physical activity she needed, it also boosted her confidence.
So when Peterson decided to go through a ten-story building to show her support for the fight against childhood cancer, she sent Miss Kate – who has a fear of heights – an email asking her to rappel too.
“You have so much love, kindness and strength,” Peterson wrote. “Dancing in your studio taught me that I can do anything if there is love and passion behind it. I am so proud of you that you have even thought of facing your fear! That just goes to show how brave you really are.
“If you choose not to do this, that’s okay! This would be a very BIG yes for a very BIG building. You have a heart of gold and … maybe you could come and see me? Miss Kate, you can do whatever you want. ”
The request came just when one of Moody’s dance teachers was diagnosed with leukemia for her 2-year-old son.
“Cancer in children has been a top priority lately,” says Moody. Then Hollyn sent me the most beautiful, inspiring and encouraging email. There was no way I could say no. ”
“I am totally afraid of heights! I climbed on a cruise ship with my two young sons in 2019 and could barely get down without panicking.
“That said, I like to do things that scare me because I feel that you really grow. So I just bought a climbing pass and my boys are going to teach me to ‘trust the rope’. ”
And immediately apparent is the kind of spirit that inspires Peterson.
Thus, the two strive to abseil through the building at the same time, further strengthening their bond of mutual respect and admiration.
“After everything she’s been through, she always has a positive outlook on life,” Moody says of her former student. ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen her not smiling and positive. I’m sure she has her days, as we all do, but she just has a great look. ”
While Miss Kate has been a rock to Hollyn Peterson all these years, it’s the minutes they’ve taken the reins together, Peterson’s turn to be her mentor’s solid rock, even though she’s a little, ahem, edgy about herself.
“I’ve never descended through a building before, but I love to challenge myself and try new things,” says Peterson. “I was intimidated by starting to dance and study, but I said yes to those challenges and I am so grateful that I did. I love roller coasters so I hope the height won’t be as scary as it sounds, even if it is I know I’m doing this for the kids!
“Miss Kate is afraid of heights so this really shows the love and compassion she has.”
Sign up here to go Over the Edge for the MACC fund.