Kelly Dixon

A project started by Kelly sparked efforts across her community to help raise funds for breast cancer research in memory of Kelly's mom.

Kelly Dixon lost her mother, Julie Davis Dixon, to a recurrence of breast cancer when she was 15. The Roanoke Rapids High School graduate decided in the fall of her senior year that all she wanted for Christmas was a Cure.

This became the theme of an effort that brought Kelly's community together. Through a walk-a-thon, bake sale, t-shirt and bracelet sales and a silent auction that Kelly put together when community members started donating items and services, the homecoming queen, four year cheerleader and AP student raised $8,000 for breast cancer research.

Julie Dixon was well-known in the community and worked as a nurse at the hospital. When Kelly started getting the word out about her project to raise funds for research in her mom's memory, her nursing school friends, colleagues and other community members stepped up.

"I used Facebook, text messages, a radio public service announcement, the newspaper and a lot of fliers to get the word out," said Kelly. "Facebook was amazing. There is a page in my mom's memory and it helped me get information to everyone. "

This came in handy the night before the walk, when Roanoke Rapids saw an unaccustomed snow storm. Using Facebook and text messages, Kelly pushed the time of the walk back from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. Despite the time change — and the fact that half of the town was without power due to the storm — more than 50 people participated.

"I'm really proud of this young lady," said teacher Jan Tugwell, who served as Kelly's advisor on the project. "I would give her an idea about something to do to promote the event and the next day, she would have it done."

Kelly decided to give the proceeds to UNC Lineberger after researching several options. "I like that all of the funds go directly to research — that made it a no-brainer."

Leslie Williams, a nurse navigator with the UNC Breast Center, met with Kelly when she came to Chapel Hill to present the check to UNC Lineberger. "Julie was one of my first patients at UNC and she was amazing. She was very proud of Kelly and her sister and I see a lot of her in the way that Kelly is creating a legacy in her memory."