Family and friends have all described Cecilia Fink, a psychology freshman at the University of Pittsburgh, as a blessing and a motivated individual who is driven to serve.
In five years, Cecilia has raised more than $60,000 for several local children and organizations that help cancer patients, those in need of heart transplants, or others with health problems.
Pam Fink, Cecilia’s mother, tells of a scary experience with Cecilia’s father, Jason Fink, who has to undergo an aortic dissection a week before Christmas. The kindness the Finks received during such a stressful time fueled Cecilia’s drive to give back to others in similar situations.
“It really threw us for a loop,” said Cecilia. “There were so many people who came to help us, bring food and presents for Christmas. And while it may not seem important to them, it meant a lot to us.”
Her grandfather also suffered and sadly passed away from cancer.
On her next birthday, Cecilia had her ears pierced and decided to start making earrings to sell on First Fridays to raise money for the very first recipient, Nolan McLaughlin.
She had heard the story of Nolan, a one-year-old boy who needed a heart transplant, from her family and knew she had to help.
“When I heard that I was like, I know what that pain feels like and I can’t imagine going through that with their kid,” Cecilia said.
“She was able to donate just over $1,000 her first year,” Pam said.
From then on, it grew into something much bigger — a “Pie Day 5K,” held every Thanksgiving morning, raising over $10,000 in its first year, over $18,000 in 2019, and over $16,000 in 2020 despite the pandemic.
“I couldn’t believe I was able to do that,” Cecilia added.
She has also donated money to local children Giovanni Hamilton and Declan Bower, as well as to Ellie’s Heart Foundation, the Livestrong Cancer Program at the Williamsport YMCA, and K’s for Cancer using the 5K’s revenue and the earrings sold through her organization, Be You Boldly.
Rexford Hilton, who organized K’s for Cancer, has donated more than $150,000 to 500 county families with the help of people like Cecilia. She currently holds a junior board position on the board of the organization.
“She impressed me with her desire and motivation to help people,” said Rex. “Her dedication efforts are nothing short of amazing…all the things you wish someone would be.”
He added that the organization is “very lucky and happy to have her help.”
“When you know Cecilia and work with her, you realize that the next generation is in very good hands… you can ride alongside us and take care of the people. It is not an easy task. She seems to have the energy, she’s always smiling… she’s going to have a great future,” he said.
Her father, Jason, agreed.
“She’s got this gift, I’ll tell you, it’s a gift,” Jason said. “She’s really good at it and she understands the importance of involving other people. It makes me feel good that we have a new generation that we know will be more engaged and passionate.”
He added that Cecilia takes pride in making others feel like they are contributing to something bigger than a pair of earrings or taking part in her annual 5K; that the money spent will affect one’s life.
“She’s had challenges she’s faced and has still met (and surpassed) her goal,” added Jason. “When I sit back and think about that aspect, she had an opportunity to grow through it all.”
Her original goal was to raise $50,000 by graduating from Williamsport Area High School. At the end of 2019, she was already very close and raised her goal to $60,000.
Cecilia was just below that number when the pandemic started.
She worked closely with city officials to devise a safety plan that would allow the traditional Pie Day 5K to continue, and she reached and exceeded her 2020 target. Although her 5K is now hosted by the Chamber of Commerce, Cecilia can still save $ 2,000 to be provided to both the Livestrong program and K’s for Cancer.
“It’s great to see how much help she has given people,” said Lydia Fink, Cecilia’s older sister. “I am very proud of her, she is fantastic. She will continue to do great things.”
“I’m super proud of what she does and who she is,” Pam said. “It’s just so cool to watch her develop into her own confident, amazing being.”
Although Cecilia moved her trip to Pittsburgh, her passion for helping people never left.
She works with the Movement Exchange program to teach dance to Pittsburgh children who may be living in a lower economic situation, and will travel to Panama in the spring to teach dance to children living in orphanages there.
She also hopes to move the sale of her Be You Boldly earrings to an online format so she can make her earrings and raise money for charity wherever she goes.
In the future, she hopes to become a child play therapist with her studies in psychology.
“When you think about giving back to others, it doesn’t have to be something big,” Cecilia said. “The little things really make the difference.”
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