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Penn State Student to Raise Funds for Kidney Cancer Research at Blue-White Game

by on April 09, 2014 4:28 PM

Alison Willie was just a kid when her father was diagnosed with kidney cancer.

But her family quickly turned the scary news into a project to help her father -- and grandfather, who had the same diagnosis -- as well as others suffering from the same illness.

The family has been on a mission ever since to raise funds for kidney cancer research and treatment while raising awareness about the disease.

"It's our family's way of doing something positive and making happy memories," Willie says. "It was a way to make something good out of a bad situation. ... If the cancer ever comes back, we know we've done absolutely everything we can to make their chances as good as possible."

While grappling with the cancer news, Willie's family, which coincidentally resides in Happy Valley, Ore., heard about the Penn State football program's Lift for Life event, a yearly fundraiser for kidney cancer research.

The Willies – who at the time had no connection to Penn State – then sent cards to some of the players. Jordan Norwood, a 2008 Penn State graduate and a State College native, wrote back to Willie, prompting her and her family to write even more letters. The exchanges led the family to visit Penn State for the first time in 2007 for Lift for Life, where Willie set out 17 hand-made scarves, asking for donations.

The family also started selling scarves at the Penn State football Blue-White scrimmage.

While her father and grandfather are cancer-free today, Willie, now a sophomore at Penn State, continues the fight and she will be selling scarves at this Saturday's Blue-White game. Willie and the scarves will be at a tent on Curtain Road.

"It's been great. We always meet new people. We have some of the same people who come back each year to see our family. And they love our story. They love that we are from Happy Valley in Oregon," Willie says.

Willie, her mother, and other loved ones knit the scarves year-round. They are all blue and white in color, but feature different patterns. Willie estimates the scarves have generated roughly $40,000 for the cause.

For more information check out the Willie Family's Facebook page.

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Jennifer Miller is a reporter for She has worked in journalism since 2005. She's covered news at the local, state and national level with an emphasis on crime and local government.
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