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Alyssa’s Wish: 2012

Among the various characteristics that set Clearwater Christian College apart from the crowd, the family-like atmosphere and the genuine interest in the lives of people make CCC truly one-of-a-kind. This can be seen in a variety of ways, but especially in a recent event that was close to the heart of the CCC family: participation as Team “Alyssa’s Wish” in this year’s Miles for Hope 5k walk for Brain Cancer.

On Saturday, September 22, the city of Clearwater hosted a brain cancer 5k walk/run, organized by Miles for Hope. This annual event, held at Coachman Park in downtown Clearwater, is special to many students, faculty, and staff who have participated over the past two years. One of the greatest supporters of “Alyssa’s Wish” is CCC’s Cove Café operator, Mrs. Joanne McHugh.

The story begins with a spunky girl named Alyssa McLanahan. Alyssa came to CCC in 2007 and immediately grabbed the hearts of many, never intending to let go. However, God had another plan for her life. During her freshman year, Mr. and Mrs. McHugh met Alyssa and welcomed her into their hearts and home. She and her boyfriend, Josh Stolvoort, and brother, Jon McLanahan, who both joined Alyssa at CCC the following year, became a huge part of the McHugh’s life and family. All three became campus kids to the family, but they ended up feeling more like the McHugh’s own children.

At the beginning of Alyssa’s junior year at Clearwater she began having seizures. That semester, she went home with her family and found out that she had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. In December of the same year, Alyssa had her first brain surgery, with another surgery following. “Through it all she smiled and praised the Lord—that is what I love about her,” said Mrs. McHugh about Alyssa in the midst of surgeries and battle with cancer.

Josh and Alyssa got married in August, 2010, and started a life of their own. In the beginning, Alyssa felt quite well; however, it wasn’t long after moving that she started having seizures again and her health decreased considerably. In January of 2011, and only eight days after surgery, Alyssa visited Clearwater and was surprised to find that her brother Jon had arranged a “white-out” at his basketball game. The CCC gym was full of fans and supporters wearing “iWear for Alyssa” t-shirts in support of her and her battle with brain cancer. The McHugh’s got to visit with Alyssa before she passed away in July of 2011. “Alyssa McLanahan was an amazing young lady who lived her life for the Lord and praised the Lord through it all,” said Mrs. McHugh. “It is an exceptional testimony for the Lord that a young woman who went through so much didn’t spend her time feeling sorry for herself, but rather praised the Lord and kept her focus on Christ.”

Jon McLanahan is a recent graduate of Clearwater Christian College, and as such, he no longer lives in the Clearwater area. However, Jon was able to participate in Miles for Hope once again. Since he was not at the school to raise support for Alyssa’s Wish, spreading the word for this event relied solely upon Joanne McHugh and her love for the cause. As a result of her effort, many CCC people completed the race. Current students came out in support of Alyssa and Jon, as well as Katelyn Volpe, an alumna and Alyssa’s roommate while at Clearwater, Coach Vickie Denny, Mr. Valentin, and the entire McHugh family. The impact and encouragement from those who ran, whether in memory of Alyssa, or in support of Jon as a friend, did not go unnoticed.

When asked why he started participating with Miles for Hope Jon McLanahan said, “The run is special to me because one of Alyssa's main wishes when she was diagnosed with brain cancer was that there would be more awareness of the disease. This is one way that I can help raise awareness for Alyssa and the many others who are battling the terrible disease of cancer.”

“Clearwater is about investing time in students. My husband and I take that duty very seriously,” said Mrs. McHugh. Her dedication and love for a young girl who had a rough road serves as a wonderful testimony for this institution, as well as for the Christian faith. Clearwater Christian College is a family, and as in any family, they are there to share with and encourage each other, whether in pain or in joy. The members of this college not only encourage, but also serve to lift one another up in prayer, with a desire to help each other to grow closer to God. That is what makes the difference; that is what stands out from the crowd.

Click on the following link to view more photos from the event:
Photo Gallery: Alyssa's Wish: 2012

Written by Nicole Shirey ‘14