East Valley High School senior Christina Nelson has turned loss into inspiration.
After her mother died of breast cancer this past fall, Nelson spent her academic year encouraging others and found wide support in return. She raised money to fight the disease and continued doing what she loves – classes, sports and her volunteer job as football team manager.
She played the entire season on the Knights’ varsity girls soccer team.
“I was voted most inspirational by my fellow teammates,” said Nelson. “That was the most important award to me.”
Nelson chalked up many other awards: Chase Youth Award for courage, Greater Spokane League Scholar Athlete of the Year, and National Electrical Contractors Association Female Athlete of the Year. She also played basketball, ran track, and held memberships in the National Honor Society and Spanish Club.
Her mother, Carol, raised her three kids as a single mom after their father, Cary Nelson, died of pancreatic cancer when Christina was 2. Carol died on Sept. 16 after being diagnosed in July.
“It was very sudden,” Nelson said. Returning to school among friends helped her cope. “I have so many friends. Everyone was so supportive. Going back to school was the best thing for me,” she said.
As varsity football team manager, Nelson helped the players sort their equipment each season. The week her mom died, Nelson wasn’t expected to volunteer at that Friday’s game, but she decided to put on a baseball cap and quietly slip into the stands. Other students eventually saw her, and Nelson learned that most of the football players had written her name on their gloves and equipment in a show of support.
“They didn’t know I’d be there,” Nelson added. “I had a huge support system.”
Nelson soon returned to her post, helping the football players at every game. “The volunteer position involves everything from going all over the town, washing all the equipment and sorting. I get the guys what they need as far as their equipment. It’s a big job. I have a family of 30. I truly love the guys.”
On some days, Nelson would sprint off from soccer practice straight over to the football field.
Both she and her brother Johnny, a junior, stayed at EVHS despite a move to Millwood to live with older sister Kahlil Sitton, her husband and their children. “I’d never leave East Valley,” Nelson said.
Looking ahead, Nelson will continue to support others fighting cancer. She ran in the recent Race for a Cure and raised $300. A fundraiser for the Susan G. Komen Foundation is ongoing with the help of a teacher. Following graduation, Nelson plans to attend Eastern Washington University to pursue nursing, with a goal to work in neonatal care.
Through all of her accomplishments this year, Nelson has kept her mom in mind.
“She had the most confidence in me than anyone in the world. There was no doubt in her mind I could do anything. She’s a huge drive behind everything I do.”