BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Most high school seniors in the COVID-age are living for the big moments like football games, dances, and time with friends—that is, if they aren’t cancelled.
One group of high schoolers isn’t too worried about themselves. Instead, they’ve created a “Cool Cat Club” to make sure cancer patients aren’t missing out on life’s joys during the pandemic.
The founding ‘cats’ Peter Anella, Hall Welborn, Tanner Gray and Amalia Trujillo are 17 year olds who have been impacted by cancer in various ways. Now, they’re just trying to make the battle a little easier for others.
Fueled by the desire to make their loved ones proud, the ‘cats’ raise funds and deliver snacks, toys and multifunctional Cool Cats Club merchandise to hospitals.
Anella says the ‘cats’ launched the organization in memory of the original ‘cool cat:’ Anella’s father, Peter Anella Sr.
“This is the reason,” Anella said. “To carry on his memory, carry on his values of being kind to the community.”
“He’s the one who taught me everything and showed me to work hard and you can do anything,” he said. “He said the only limitation is the one you put on yourself, so I keep that pretty at heart.”
After a hard fight, Anella Sr. eventually lost his battle with cancer at Grandview Medical Center. Doctors who treated him, like Oncologist at Grandview Cancer Center Dr. Ben Jones, took notice that Anella Sr. was indeed a ‘cool cat.’
Jones said, “His dad, to me, embodied optimism and hope. He was always positive, no matter how crummy he may have been feeling. He always knew there was a better day coming. These young guys embody the hope of the future.”
Ramie Wesley, the oncology and imaging director at Grandview Cancer Center, organized the drop-off with the club. She says the ‘cool cats’ thoroughly impressed her.
“It’s remarkable to see the innovation and initiative and then just the dedication to stick to it. They’ll certainly be mentors and inspiration for their peers in school but also current patients and their family members as well.”
This group of seniors are on the prowl for expansion.
“Our next initiative is to get it into schools. We want it to be youth-led…so we’re going to get it into different high schools. And Tanner is leading that initiative right now.”
In the meantime, Anella says their drop-off today was like catnip; it energized the team to keep inspiring others.
“All the work was worth it. It makes me want to keep going and see where this stuff goes.”
And to top it off, it was a pretty cool photo op for the proud moms who attended the drop-off.
If you’d like to help or join the Cool Cat Club, visit their website here.
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