Six years ago, my Auntie Marla passed away from a rare form of kidney cancer. I had such a close relationship with her and her loss has greatly impacted my family.
For my 13th birthday, I wanted to do something to honor my Aunt’s life and also help those in need. I combined my love for her and the game of hockey, my favorite sport.
Could I collect hockey equipment and donate it to those who are less fortunate?
I decided to only focus on hockey sticks. I came up with a name, designed a logo, and Stick Up to Cancer was born.
My parents then gave me a challenge: for every used hockey stick I collected, they would donate $5 to the Marla Fund, which supported grants to improve Edgemont Schools, the district where my Aunt Marla taught first grade for over 20 years.
I started asking anyone we knew—do you have any old hockey sticks lying around? Friends and family really stepped up and to my surprise so many strangers came forward with used hockey sticks that they had in their garages, their attics, and in storage. Even after it was posted on social media, strangers left sticks outside their homes. My parents drove me to pick up all of all the donations.
Local ice hockey rinks setup collection bins and sticks came pouring in. The project really took off.
The hockey sticks were later distributed to Hockey NJ, an organization that serves kids in Newark, New Jersey with donated hockey equipment. The players all benefited from these donations.
But this project is far from over.
I will continue to collect hockey sticks and help my fellow hockey players who are in need of equipment. However, I will now donate to cancer research to help fight this terrible disease. I don’t want anyone else to go through the pain that I went through of losing my Auntie.
Marla Payson Weizner
In 2015, Marla was getting ready to give birth to her second child. As a first grade teacher, Marla loved children and was looking forward to expanding her family. As she entered the third trimester of her pregnancy, Marla began to experience pain in her right flank. Her doctor said it was surely from carrying her baby to term and pain was not unusual. However, after her son Matthew was born, the pain only got worse. Even prescription pain medication did not provide relief. Then, she saw blood in her urine. It took a few more trips back to the doctor until finally, her internist ordered a cat scan. She was diagnosed with advanced kidney cancer. The biopsy of her tumor revealed it was rare, mixed-grade and highly malignant. The disease was hiding in plain sight throughout her pregnancy. Marla immediately had surgery to remove her kidney and began systemic treatments. Yet just 7 months after her diagnosis, she passed away and left behind her husband Bill, daughter Brooke, son Matthew, her parents, sister, nephews and countless friends and colleagues.