When her gymnastics coach was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, then 10-year-old Veronica “Nickie” Griesemer, B.S. ’17, D.P.T. ’19 was devastated. But fear turned into inspiration as her mentor beat the disease and went on to create a nonprofit dedicated to providing resources for others in their fight.
Griesemer brought the mission of Unite for Her — and the inspiration she gained from its founder, Sue Weldon — to Ithaca College, where she helped raise more than $11,000 total for cancer survivors over two years with the help of the college’s athletic teams.
“Sue made a huge impact on my life at a young age, and I have been involved in the organization for so long I knew I wanted to do my part [in Ithaca too],” said Griesemer, who is working toward her master’s in physical therapy.. So in 2016 she created a branch of Unite for Her at IC.
Unite for Her works to provide access to health and wellness resources like yoga, massage therapy, nutrition counseling and acupuncture to help women battling breast cancer and survivors restoring themselves to health.
Over the last two years, Griesemer and the IC chapter of UFH worked with each sports team during their seasons to fundraise during one at-home appearance. Members of the team decked out their sidelines in pink, where attendees could enter raffles and purchase clothing, hats and other gear, with proceeds going to the cause. Athletes also donned pink shirts during warm ups as a display of support.
“In the past two years since starting the club, students, athletes and fans have come together to help raise over $11,000, which is so incredible,” Griesemer said.
Originally, the raised funds were earmarked for recipients affiliated with Ithaca College, such as the loved one of a current student, while a portion went back to the parent organization to help women in the Philadelphia area. But by their second year, Griesemer wanted to expand to the larger local community. She reached out to the Cancer Resource Center of the Finger Lakes, which connected Griesemer with a recent cancer survivor attending support groups at the center.
In May, Griesemer met with the survivor to present her a check for $2,000 that will help pay for massage therapy and yoga.
“It was incredible to see all the money we raised finally go to someone in the Ithaca community,” Griesemer said. “I was grateful I could meet to explain to her where the money was coming from, and what she could use it for.”