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Edison High School Senior Supports Hoag Melanoma Program

Donnie Skolnick organized event that raised nearly $3000 for Hoag Family Cancer Institute

Hoag has been a big part of Donnie Skolnick’s upbringing. He’s proud of mom, Lori Berberet, M.S., R.N., who is a nurse navigator at Hoag Family Cancer Institute. When Lori was diagnosed with melanoma, he was in and out of Hoag with her during her treatment.

“It has been a grind, a battle,” he admitted. Not only did Donnie’s mom battle the disease, but a cousin of his died from melanoma.

But those challenges didn’t stop Donnie from making the most of his high school years. As a freshman at Edison High School, he created an aquaponics lab through a grant to raise fish sustainably. Donnie was accepted into the CIBACS (Center for International Business and Communications Studies), a four-year program focused on competitive projects, job shadowing and internships with business partners. Donnie never imagined that one day he would combine his love of fishing with the personal impact that melanoma has had on his family to become a Hoag donor.

A Family Affair

When it came time for Donnie to prepare his final CIBACS graduation project, he wanted to do something for his community. After talking with his teacher and family, he decided to raise funds for the Hoag Melanoma/Advanced Skin Cancer Program with a poke fest. He used his own savings to set up the event and recruited his parents, aunts, uncles and cousins to serve the food. He got raffle prizes from local businesses and Hoag set up an information table. Over 120 people attended.

“I couldn’t have done it without them,” Donnie said, referring to his family. “It was a very moving experience.”

Philanthropists Start Young

On May 14, 2018, the Hoag Family Cancer Institute team held a special ceremony to thank Donnie for his gift of $2,855.73. With tears in her eyes, Lori stood up and introduced her son to the audience.

“This is a really proud moment for me and my husband Elliot,” she said. “We are really fortunate to live and work in the same community. Our goal is for our kids to give back to the community that has given so much to them.”

After Donnie signed the check, he said, “There is no feeling comparable to signing a check to Hoag. So much time, effort, love and devotion were summed up with one large check. Melanoma can have a tough impact on people and families, but for me, it was a huge step to do something positive about this disease that has affected me and my family.”

On hand to thank Donnie for his efforts were Burton Eisenberg, M.D., Grace E. Hoag Executive Medical Director Endowed Chair of the Hoag Family Cancer Institute; Dori Holnagel, vice president of clinical institutes; Craig Cox, M.D.; Binh Ngo, M.D.; Brian Kim, M.D. and many others from the Hoag Melanoma team.

“What Donnie has accomplished is a great example of how a young student can apply energy and dedication to help others,” said Dr. Eisenberg. “Donnie’s gift has great meaning for me because of his personal connection to Hoag and the Melanoma Program.”

For more information on making a gift to the Hoag Melanoma/Advanced Skin Cancer Program, please contact Katherine Duarte at (949) 764-7035 or Katherine.Duarte@hoag.org.”

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