WWU, Squalicum students take over philanthropy of fallen friend

Western Today staff

A group of students from Western Washington University and Squalicum High School have taken the reins of a service-learning project started by former Squalicum student Hannah Dashiell, who was tragically killed in a car accident on Jan. 5.

The philanthropy, the Whatcom County version of the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk, will be held from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 31, at Civic Field in Bellingham. Founded in 2008 by a group of committed volunteers and families, the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk, sponsored by Swedish Medical Center, has raised more than $2.5 million for research, clinical trials and comprehensive care for brain cancer patients in the Pacific Northwest.

Seeing the project to completion is a collaborative effort led by Squalicum students Sarrah Truong, Hunter Hanlon and Tyler Ho; and Western’s Katie Coty (Orting), Crescent Munsen (Olympia), Lindsay Wells (Seattle), Sarah Rothgeb (Puyallup), Haley Poradun (Bellingham) and Aki Knighten (Gig Harbor).

The Seattle walk was near to Hannah’s heart, as she and her family participated each year to remember her grandfather, Jerry Jerowski, whose life was taken by the disease. Supported by her grandmother, Pat Jerowski, Hannah’s dream was to create the walk in Bellingham as a tribute to her grandfather and as a gift to the Bellingham community.

Hannah’s father, Dennis Dashiell, the assistant director for Organizational and Professional Development in Western’s Human Resources office, said he was thrilled that his daughter’s peers felt strongly enough about both the cause and Hannah’s legacy to take the project on.

“As a kid she used to joke about the future day when she would help to cure cancer. Each year on Hannah's birthday in lieu of gifts Hannah would throw a party and ask her guest to donate to the Seattle Brain Cancer Walk. It was her dream to bring the walk to Bellingham and through the help of community, family and friends this is now a reality,” Dashiell said.

“It’s just so inspirational to see these young people working so hard to heal their own community and to build something positive out of such a tragic event,” said Dan Purdy, director of the WWU Front Door to Discovery and faculty mentor to the nine students on the team.

“This has been an amazing learning experience for these students as they grapple with the practical challenges of building a nonprofit from scratch.”

The students are also being mentored by Western faculty members Samit Bordello of the Human Services Program in Western’s Woodring College of Education and Karen Stout of Western’s Communication Studies department.

“This event is a joy to work on and we are committed to helping however we can to honor the vision that Hannah had and that her friends and family are carrying out,” said Tracie Lievense, director of Development at the Swedish Medical Center Foundation. “The community is so lucky to have people like this to move these initiatives forward and to help not only raise money for such an important cause, but carry out the legacy of a young woman who had an infectious passion to do good things in this world.”

The walk is not competitive and will feature live music, a kid’s zone, and speakers. Brain cancer survivors and families are encouraged to join us to remember loved ones and friends. An Honor Tent will be available for photos and messages in celebration of a survivor or in memory of a friend or loved one.

Online registration for the event is $25 per walker through May 30 at http://braincancerwalk.org/bellingham. Donations may also be made online at any time. Day of registration is available for $35 at Civic Field on May 31. For sponsorship details, please contact Daniel.purdy@wwu.edu for more information.

Learn more, register and see who’s coming at http://braincancerwalk.org/bellingham.