Emily Hamilton's wish list for her sweet sixteen birthday was short and sincere. She requested that friends and family honor her mother's legacy with a gift to Women & Infants Hospital's Program in Women's Oncology.
"I have everything I need," says Emily. "It was more important to me to raise money to help patients like my mom." Emily's mother, Catherine Schulte-Hamilton, passed away in 2010 at age 49 – 14 years after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Emily, a junior at La Salle Academy in Providence, is committed to helping improve cancer treatment at Women & Infants, where her mother was a patient.
As part of a class project this past spring, the Providence teen produced a variety show at her school. All proceeds were donated to the Program in Women's Oncology. Held at the Casino at Roger Williams Park, approximately 100 people attended the show that featured more than 20 acts by Emily's classmates and friends. "It was something all the kids rallied around for Emily. She is such a wonderful young lady who inspires us all," says Elise Maggiacomo, a La Salle teacher who serves as mentor to Emily and other students in the school's PEGASUS Enrichment program for gifted students.
Emily was a freshman the year her mother passed away. She says the La Salle community has been extremely supportive of her. "Most people at school know why I'm involved with the hospital," she says. "Obviously, my family has a history with Women & Infants, but I also love supporting this cause because I can see our work affecting women in my hometown."
Emily and her father, Gregory Hamilton, are strong advocates for the current campaign to relocate and expand the Infusion Center, where Catherine had spent so many days undergoing chemotherapy treatment. The Hamiltons say they want to ensure that women with breast cancer and gynecological cancers are treated in a more comfortable, healing environment – one that reflects the outstanding care each patient receives at Women & Infants.
"The people at the Breast Health Center and throughout the Program in Women's Oncology were wonderful," says Gregory. "Cathy spent a lot of time in different hospitals. She frequently recalled how the minute she woke up she could tell when she was at Women & Infants based on how she was treated. Nurses were more concerned, doctors took the time to answer all her questions. It really is a special place."
As the producer of the La Salle variety show, Emily spent more than a year working out every detail of the production, from scheduling and ticket sales to working with performers. Emily recalls that the energy and the hectic pace of the event kept her focused on the job at hand. But, after the final act, the magnitude of her efforts came to light. "I was so in the moment during the event and it was so crazy leading up to it that it wasn't until the show was over that I became emotional," she explains. "I saw how much people loved it and how grateful people were for what we did."
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