Hope Starts Here honors participants

When three-year-old Brody Etelamaki was diagnosed with a brain tumor, family and friends were shocked and saddened. But instead of feeling helpless, they gathered their forces and formed a team for the Hope Starts Here Challenge, held May 11 in Marquette. The fundraiser helps the Upper Michigan Brain Tumor Center provide leading edge brain tumor research at Northern Michigan University. The funds also help patients and families with expenses associated with travel to medical appointments. More than 65 individuals contributed to the “Brody Strong” Team effort, earning them the Hope Starts Here Team Award and helping make the 2013 Hope Starts Here Challenge the best year ever, with 620 participants raising more than $25,000. Pictured above, from left, are Professor Robert Winn, Northern Michigan University UMBTRC director; Sarah Etelamaki, Brody’s aunt; Christi Etelamaki, Brody’s aunt; Sabina Carlson, Brody’s aunt; and Dr. Richard Rovin, Marquette General neurosurgeon.

Molly Kus engaged fellow brain tumor survivor Nicki Whitford in a fundraising effort that surprised and humbled them. When they asked people for financial support for the Upper Michigan Brain Tumor Center’s Hope Starts Here Challenge, the flood gates opened. Being a brain tumor survivor is not the only thing these young women share, Molly teaches at Lakeview Elementary School in Negaunee as does Nikki. Their students and co-workers rallied around them starting in October 2012, helping them win the individual fundraising award. Pictured below, from left, are Winn, Kus, Whitford and Rovin.