When Rye Neck High School freshman Alicia McMillan sets her mind on something, there’s no stopping her.
By Janice Llanes Fabry
When Rye Neck High School freshman Alicia McMillan sets her mind on something, there’s no stopping her. Last year, she raised $2,000 for the American Cancer Society. This year, she is focusing on helping children with cancer through Gilda’s Club of Westchester, and is on her way to meeting her $6,500 goal.
“I took a tour of all the children’s programs at Gilda’s Club and got to see what I was working towards,” she said of the White Plains facility. “I’m happy I was able to pinpoint the population I wanted to help.”
It was important for the student to see firsthand that the non-profit organization provides emotional and social support for children, whose lives have been touched by cancer. Gilda’s Club services, social activities, workshops, and events are all free of charge, so it relies solely on donations.
McMillan applauded the warm and welcoming atmosphere the center offers kids. “They have comfy rooms, spongy sofas and chairs. While they’re there, the kids are away from the hospital environment, machines, and needles. It’s more of a homey feel, where they feel safe and can open up about their feelings.”
She was also impressed by the support services, such as an anonymous “question box,” available to the young patients. “When you’re young and cancer is taking over your life, it’s good to have someone there to help you understand.”
Having made Gilda’s Club her mission last spring, she and her parents held a meeting at their home for friends and neighbors. Along with the adults, McMillan and fellow freshman Yoli Zarate brainstormed for various ways to raise funds and came up with a karaoke night at the Duck Inn in Mamaroneck. Attendees paid $10 to submit a friend’s name to sing; if the friend backed out, they paid $20. Their “Charaoke Night” raised $800.
McMillan laments the fact that a new federal law restricting food choices at schools to strict nutritional standards has put a damper on traditional school bake sales. “In middle school, I always relied on bake sales for raising money,” she remarked, “Not a lot of kids are going to buy a carrot.”
Undaunted, the enterprising student has a Plan B, one she calls “the big event,” in the works. “We’re building up to a party at a local venue, because my home and backyard won’t be able to handle all the people,” said McMillan.
McMillan’s first fundraising experience was a bake sale, when she was 11. “With the money I raised, I bought groceries and went to the Carver Center with bags of food. Then I saw a mother come in with her three kids and she took those bags of food home for her family,” she recalled. “It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had and it sparked my interest.”