Breast cancer sur­vivors group hon­ors leader with schol­ar­ship

Maryland Independent - - Front Page -

It’s a mat­ter of the heart for the Sis­ters at Heart, a lo­cal cancer sur­vivor group. In honor of their leader, Roberta Kieliger of La Plata, the group mo­bi­lized to cre­ate a schol­ar­ship in her name at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land, ac­cord­ing to a re­lease. Be­cause of Kieliger’s in­ter­est in women’s health care and the goals of the sup­port group she founded 10 years ago, the Roberta Kieliger Sis­ters at Heart Schol­ar­ship was de­signed to ben­e­fit stu­dents in the health­care field, with a pref­er­ence to stu­dents who are cancer sur­vivors or fam­ily mem­bers of those who have bat­tled cancer.

Kieliger has reached the age of 81, even af­ter a strug­gle with breast cancer. She’s been mar­ried for 62 years.

“I’ve had a full life,” she said in the re­lease. “I can’t com­plain … The jour­ney has been awe­some. The rea­son it has been awe­some is be­cause of the peo­ple.”

Kieliger is in the last weeks of her life due to MDS, a bone mar­row dis­or­der. She is un­der hos­pice care at home.

“We’ve [Sis­ters at Heart mem­bers] all had breast cancer, and we’ve all been in and out of the hospi­tal. Our whole mis­sion is to sup­port health care,” Nila Toribio-Straka, one of Kieliger’s Sis­ters at Heart friends, said ex­plain­ing the schol­ar­ship’s fo­cus.

Toribio-Straka also ex­plained why Kieliger’s friends wanted to go to such lengths to honor Kieliger’s con­tri­bu­tions to the com­mu­nity. “She’s just been a great one. Her per­son­al­ity is meek and mild … She doesn’t like to take credit for all she’s done.”

The cre­ation of the Roberta Kieliger Sis­ters at Heart Schol­ar­ship was an ex­pres­sion of re­spect and love that over­whelmed Kieliger, Kieliger said from her home last week.

“To think that they thought enough of me to set up the schol­ar­ship … It’s quite amaz­ing,” she said in the re­lease.

Toribio-Straka worked with the CSM de­vel­op­ment of­fice to set up the schol­ar­ship. The ini­tial fund­ing came from Harry Frauen­felder, a good friend of Kieliger’s. The schol­ar­ship was award- ed Feb. 2 to its first two re­cip­i­ents, Emily DiToto of Wal­dorf and Pi­lar Gon­za­les of St. Leonard. One week later, DiToto and Gon­za­les had the chance to meet Kieliger at her home.

“That was im­pact­ful for ev­ery­one,” Toribio-Straka said.

Gon­za­les said she had never been awarded any­thing like a schol­ar­ship be­fore, and she was very grate­ful for a chance to meet the wo­man for whom the schol­ar­ship was cre­ated.

“All my life I will re­mem­ber,” Gon­za­les said. “I’ve been very blessed. She’s a ver y nice lady.”

“Meet­ing Mrs. Kieliger was a rare op­por­tu­nity to put a face to a schol­ar­ship for my ed­u­ca­tion,” DiToto said. “Many schol­ar­ship re­cip­i­ents don’t have the chance to meet the donors, but meet­ing Mrs. Kieliger made it per­sonal and I feel con­nected to her.”

Kieliger de­scribed that meet­ing and how much it meant to her. She noted that one of the re­cip­i­ents de­scribed some se­ri­ous fi­nan­cial chal­lenges in her fam­ily.

“So, the schol­ar­ship came at an op­por­tune time,” Kieliger said. “It re­ally makes you feel like it was a won­der­ful gift my friends had given me … I’m amazed. I feel like I am very blessed.”

For in­for­ma­tion about Sis­ters at Heart, goto sis­ters a the artbc.w ix site. com/sis­ter­sup­port.

Roberta Kieliger, far right in front, vis­its at her home in La Plata with the first two re­cip­i­ents of the Roberta Kieliger Sis­ters at Heart Schol­ar­ship, from left in front, Pi­lar Gon­za­les and Emily DiToto, with her hus­band, Bob Kieliger by her side, joined by, in back from left, Cindy Beck, Kieliger’s daugh­ter; Sis­ters at Heart mem­bers Su­san Wil­borne and Nila Toribio-Straka; Harry Fraun­felder, the ini­tial donor to the schol­ar­ship; and CSM Di­rec­tor of De­vel­op­ment Chelsea Brown. SUB­MIT­TED PHO­TOS

Sis­ters at Heart, a lo­cal cancer sur­vivor group, cre­ated a schol­ar­ship at the Col­lege of South­ern Mary­land in honor of their leader, Roberta Kieliger of La Plata.

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