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Super Cooper’s College Buddies strives to support families touched by pediatric cancer

It's among every parent’s worst nightmares to receive the news that their child has been diagnosed with cancer. And many families who face this feel as if they are going through the challenging time on their own. 

But Mary Spain Lowder, co-president of Super Cooper’s College Buddies, said the UNC club strives to make sure these families know they aren't alone.

UNC graduate Alex Pritts founded SCCB in 2015 after being inspired by Super Cooper’s Little Red Wagon Foundation. The UNC club, which partners with the national foundation, provides support to families of children undergoing pediatric cancer treatment at UNC and Duke hospitals.

Sara Hardwick, the vice president of fundraising, said SCCB holds events to raise money for impacted families, ranging anywhere from book drives to cookie sales. Hardwick also said the club has found ways to raise funds during the pandemic through virtual craft nights. 

Team member Kacie Harvey said the virtual craft nights were a great way to connect with the children, despite COVID-19 restrictions. 

As a result of these efforts, Hardwick said the club was able to donate $250 toward grocery costs last semester. The club was also able to provide 20 meals and 300 luminary kits to the Ronald McDonald House, which the club partners with. 

“It’s a little different this year, but in the past, we’ve come in and cooked meals on certain nights of the week,” she said. “This year, we delivered meals because we’re not able to be in the house.” 

Each delivered meal came with a special note from a team member, Hardwick said. 

“It’s important for those kids to understand there is someone else out there thinking of them,” she added. 

Additionally, SCCB’s team has grown over the past four years — from an original 10 to 12 regular team members to a now standing average of 25, Lowder said. 

Lowder said she and her co-president Amanda Martin have been proud of the club’s recent success. 

“I joined this club as a freshman, and it was really small at the time,” she said. “(Amanda and I) decided we really just wanted to help grow the club and keep it sustainable on campus because we really believed in the mission behind it.” 

Hardwick said not only is the club’s membership increasing — so is interest. 

“It’s nice to see students wanting to give their time and energy to something that may not specifically benefit themselves,” she said. 

The club has also gained recognition from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School. 

Super Cooper’s Little Red Wagon Foundation is currently one of three Kenan-Flagler Cares charity partners, which provide the opportunity for additional fundraising, collaboration and access to business expertise. 

“We want to grow on campus as well,” Hardwick said. “But being recognized by the business school has helped us tremendously.” 

Lowder said SCCB strives to create personal relationships between the buddies and families. These personal connections are vital, she said, giving families someone else to turn to and confide in during a difficult time. 

Harvey said she enjoys connecting with the children and their families.

“You see their eyes brighten up every time they see us,” she said.

Harvey said she believes the club has given her a greater appreciation for giving back to the community and an understanding of how fortunate she is. 

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“By giving back, you’re able to realize and be more grateful for what you have,” she said. “Giving back opens your eyes to the real world.”