Hooper: Stand and cheer for these courageous children

Olivia Rivera, a recovering pediatric cancer patient, plans to become a pediatric oncology nurse. She graduates from East Lake High on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Covelli Family Limited Partnership
Olivia Rivera, a recovering pediatric cancer patient, plans to become a pediatric oncology nurse. She graduates from East Lake High on Thursday. Photo courtesy of Covelli Family Limited Partnership
Published May 14 2018
Updated May 14 2018

Olivia Rivera will rejoin her East Lake High School classmates Thursday for graduation ceremonies, but as with all commencements, it’s as much a beginning as it is an end.

It’s the end of the chapter in her battle against cancer, with doctors deeming her a survivor. And it’s the beginning of her inspirational march towards becoming a pediatric oncology nurse.

Treatment for leukemia weakened Rivera’s immune system and required seclusion and school at home. But she found hope in those moments of peace.

Now she looks to pay it forward.

"There are so many more children with fights to be fought, hopes to be found and battles to be won," Rivera told the audience at the Panera Bread Knead for Knowledge Scholarship Dinner last week. "I want to stand alongside those fighters and be the person they can confide in during those moments of peace and hope."

Covelli Family Limited Partnership, which owns 80 Panera stores, is giving Rivera a big boost with her goal, the $10,000 Albert & Josephine Covelli Scholarship. Working with the Children’s Cancer Center, it presented the award and a total of $65,000 in scholarships to 24 winners during the dinner at the Palma Ceia Country Club on May 10.

The kids earned the awards with poignant essays that reflected remarkable attitudes, courage and perseverance.

At the Hollywood-themed event, Children’s Cancer Center executive director Patty O’Leary rightfully noted that the parents are the producers and directors, and the siblings are the supporting actors and actresses.

In the end, everyone deserves a standing ovation.

That’s all I’m saying.

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