Editor's Note: The Bonner sisters are being featured Tuesday as Huffington Post's Greatest Person of the Day. The series features stories of people across the nation who are making a difference in their community. Congratulations, Ashley, Danielle, Sarah and Talia!
After Wendy Holman was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in 2007, her niece was inspired to help her aunt and potentially others dealing with the disease.
Ashley Bonner, now a 17-year-old student, organized a dance show to help raise money for adrenal cancer research. The annual "Dance 4 a Cause Kids Stand Up to Cancer" features Yorktown-area children. The dance troop has grown to 125 kids in this year's show from 43 kids in the first year three years ago.
The dance performances were choreographed by Ashley, while the event is coordinated by her sisters Danielle, 18, and Sarah, 13, and the music is prepared by their sister Talia, 15.
While Ashley was juggling school, going to dance competitions and maintaining the social life of a teen, she would teach kids different dance routines, from jazz to hip hop, tap and ballet, in her basement.
"I wanted to do something to help," Ashley said of learning of her aunt's rare cancer. "I was really devastated. It was a really sad time for all of us. My aunt was really happy when we told her about the fundraiser."
Adrenal cancer is an aggressive form of cancer, with a median survival of 28 months. The five-year survival rate is less than 10 percent. It generally occurs in two age groups, with the first peak occurring before the age of five years and the second among young and middle aged adults.
Funding from the National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society to research this deadly form of cancer are limited. Identification of novel therapies may help to increase survival rates, which have remained unchanged over the last 20 years.
One of the only treatments is with Mitotane, a drug made from the pesticide DDT that which has been used for treatment since the 1950s. Mitotane has a significant toxicity due to the high doses required for its adrenal toxic effect. A large number of ACC patients present with metastatic disease, which typically precludes surgery and carries a poor prognosis. These outcomes emphasize the need for new treatment strategies for this fatal disease.
Ashley's aunt, who grew up in Yorktown, has since gotten better and doctors are calling her a "miracle."
"Even though I'm well I get most upset by the fact that there was hardly anyone who knew about [the disease], but granted it's so rare," Holman said and added that every penny raised from the dance show goes toward adrenal cancer research.
"Ashley has always been an extremely exceptional dancer and also, unbeknownst to me, even at this young age an amazing teacher," Holman said of her niece. "I am just truly blessed to have a niece like Ashley. She is just so creative and dedicated. To be able to first of all come up with this idea and then plan it, organize it and continue to be dedicated to taking this on year after year is truly an inspiration to all of us. All while continuing to remain completely dedicated to school as well as her personal dancing career."
Ashley choreographs and teaches the dances that the kids perform in the annual shows. The girls have raised more than $50,000 collectively in the previous three shows.
Aside from actual performances, the girls were selling wristbands, lamps and t-shirts and raffle tickets to win a quilt on which the participating girls had either drawn a picture or written an inspirational message.
Anyone unable to attend the event who would still like to make a donation should make checks payable to:
Regents of University of Michigan and put “Adrenal Cancer Research Program – d4ac” on the memo line. Donations may be sent to: Tova Bonner, 2390 Rela Lane, Yorktown Heights, N.Y. 10598.