CHARLESTON, W.VA. – Talking about cancer isn’t easy for most people. In fact, one would think it would be even more difficult for a teenager who just lost her father to the disease. But Emily Boggs is no ordinary teenager.
Boggs, 16, will be recognized by Governor Joe Manchin on Wednesday, July 16 at the annual Governor’s Service Awards banquet for her dedication to helping West Virginia’s youth cope when a loved one who has cancer. The banquet is held during Faces of Leadership, the annual state volunteerism conference.
Presented annually since 1995, the Governor’s Service Awards honors youth, young adults, adults, seniors, families, organizations and businesses who exemplify outstanding dedication to volunteerism and community service in West Virginia. Boggs will receive a Governor’s Service Award in the Youth (Grade 10-12) category.
Boggs was only twelve years old when her father was diagnosed with cancer. He died only four months after his diagnosis, leaving Boggs with little time to ask questions and gauge meaning from the experience. After her father’s death, Boggs decided to do something to make the death of a loved one from cancer understandable for other youth. Through an interview with Patricia Colsher, director of the West Virginia Cancer Registry, Boggs discovered a lack of supportive literature for boys, ages 9 to 12, whose loved ones are faced with cancer.
At Colsher’s suggestion, Boggs used her own experiences and began to write them down in comic book form.
“My Dad Has Cancer” tells the story of a happy family of superheroes whose father becomes sick. The book follows the family’s son through his confusion as his father changes. Boggs included questions she’d had throughout her father’s illness and fears she’d had during that time. She wanted youth of cancer patients to understand that feeling upset, angry and sad are all normal feelings.
Boggs’ project took on new life when she asked close friend Meredith Davis, 17, to illustrate the comic book. Boggs gained support from Jean Tenney and MountainCAP of WV, who raised $5,500 to print “My Dad Has Cancer.” Approximately two thousand copies have been printed by the West Virginia University Institute of Technology and distributed to doctors’ offices, cancer centers, oncologists’ offices, and church groups.
Boggs has even taken her comic book on the road, serving as a guest speaker at the Cancer Coalition meeting in Webster County and presenting it at the West Virginia Mountains of Hope Coalition meeting. She has since given permission for the comic book to be printed for educational purposes.
Boggs hopes the message of her comic book will show young West Virginians that although cancer can happen to anyone, there is always hope for the future and that there are other people who understand what youth may be feeling.
The Governor’s Service Awards are administered by the West Virginia Commission for National and Community Service to honor outstanding individuals, organizations and businesses solving community problems through volunteer service. A panel of volunteer judges, including past awardees, choose the recipients on the basis of achievement, community needs, continuing involvement, innovation and impact of service.
Other recipients of the 2008 Governor’s Service Awards include, by category:
- Lifetime Achievement: Harold “Kitty” Wilson, Calhoun County; William “Sarge” McGhee, Wyoming County; John “Bill” Dillon, Summers County
- Adult: Karen Haynes, Putnam County
- Senior: Laura Sevy, Fayette County; G. Lee Fisher, Braxton County
- Organization: Jonathon Powell Hope Foundation, Mercer County
- Business: Verizon, statewide; INSITE, Kanawha County
For tickets to the awards banquet, or information about the conference, contact Moya Doneghy at (304) 558-0111 or 1-800-WV-HELPS, or by e-mail at Moya.Doneghy@wv.gov.