MANCHESTER, Iowa -- Inspired by her family's history with cancer, Manchester teen Macy Gudenkauf has dedicated herself to brightening the lives of children battling the disease.
The 18-year-old senior at West Delaware High School has organized a 5K run and bike ride in each of the past four years. The events have raised a total of $16,400 for University of Iowa Children's Hospital in Iowa City.
These fundraising efforts were recognized earlier this month when Gudenkauf was named an Iowa finalist in The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards. The nationwide program honors young people for outstanding acts of volunteerism.
For Gudenkauf, the impacts of cancer became evident at a young age.
She was just 18 months old when doctors discovered a Wilms tumor in the kidney of her infant brother, Michael. He was treated for the rare cancer at Iowa Children's Hospital.
When Gudenkauf was 7 years old, her mother, Lisa, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.
Although both family members have made full recoveries, their battles still resonate with Gudenkauf.
"To know what they had to go through, it makes me feel good to be giving the hospital money and to know I am helping other families who may have sick kids," she said.
When Gudenkauf was just 14 years old, she dedicated herself to fighting back against the disease.
Along with her cousin, Carly, Gudenkauf planned the run and bike ride. Carly and Macy have organized the fundraisers in each of the past four summers, and Macy plans to host a fifth one this year on her own.
"We've seen people that have done it before bring back family and friends the next year," Gudenkauf said. "It has grown each time we have done it."
Organizing the one-day event requires a great deal of legwork. Gudenkauf said she lines up sponsors, hangs fliers and even designs T-shirts to promote the event.
Lisa Gudenkauf said she has been impressed by her daughter's commitment.
"The first year I had to drive them (Macy and Carly) around and give them a couple pointers here and there, but since then, they really took the ball and ran with it," she said.
For a family that has dealt with cancer on multiple occasions, Macy's efforts serve as a source of inspiration.
"Her work has really touched through whole family," Lisa said. "To see her dig in and give back, it has been a great thing to see."