A Means to an End
By Dylan D’Alessio
For most of us, a week vacation to an island or the beach is what we look forward to; but for Erin Silkowski and her family, the week they spend volunteering to help others is the best vacation they could ask for. Erin Silkowski is a Staff Associate here at Wiss. Each summer, Erin and her family participate in the Appalachian Service Project, an organization dedicated to building warmer, safer and drier homes for those who live below the poverty line in the Appalachian region of the US (TN, KY, WV, NC, etc.).
Through their church, Erin and her family travel together to an assigned home where they are able to meet the family whose house they work on. One of the things that really sticks with Erin and drives her to return each year, is that no matter how bad the living conditions are, the families are always so kind and truly grateful for the help. In hindsight, this annual trip keeps her grounded: she realizes the small things in life we take for granted every day and it allows her to be thankful for what she does have. Erin and her family are looking forward to their Tennessee trip this summer.
In addition, Erin is also involved with the American Cancer Society. She wants to be a part of the generation that ends cancer because in her eyes, too many families are affected each year. This is a very personal matter for Erin since her grandmother passed away from lung cancer, and in Erin’s junior year of high school her best friend’s mom was told her cancer had returned after being in remission. This has driven Erin to participate in Relay for Life every year since she started high school.
When Erin went to college, she found another way to be involved and joined Colleges Against Cancer. She was able to get her dorm floor to join her team to raise money freshman year. She joined the e-board as a sophomore, publicity chair as a junior and became President of the group at her school during her senior year.
Erin wants people to know that the money raised in Relay for Life goes to much more than just research; among other things, it helps pay for treatments and boarding for families who are visiting their loved ones being treated far from home. Most importantly, the money that is going to research is working. According to a recent study by the American Cancer Society, sixty years ago, 1 out of 3 people diagnosed with cancer survived. Today, 2 out of 3 will survive. We can all agree that one day soon we hope that number is 3 out of 3 and Erin is doing as much as she can to make that happen.
Erin (fourth from right) with her family and the homeowners participating in the Appalachian Service Project in Seymour, TN where they worked on putting an addition on the home.
Erin and her family with the homeowner (center) in Mullens, WV where they helped fixed her kitchen, bathroom and bedroom.
Erin (right) and her fellow executive board member at TCNJ’s Relay for Life 2014.