Our Board of Directors came together in April 2014 for the first time. We are nine individuals who have a passion for making a difference in the pediatric cancer world! Directors are volunteers. There are no paid staff members for Pediatric Cancer Action Network.
Karri Shiers-Ahlschwede, President, Board of Directors and Co-founder of Pediatric Cancer Action Network.
Karri is a registered nurse and mother of seven children, one of which was diagnosed with Stage IV neuroblastoma at the age of 18 months. During her daughter's treatment, she was moved by the number of people who reached out to her and to her family. She was motivated by the kindness of others to incorporate PCAN in order to "pay it forward". While her daughter, Leyna is currently "No Evidence of Disease", too many of the friends she made during treatment are either still fighting for their child or mourning the loss of their child. (2014)
Gary Peters, Vice President, Board of Directors
Gary and his family live in Aurora, Nebraska. In 2011, his oldest son, Jacob, was diagnosed with T-cell Lymphoblastic Lymphoma at the age of 16. Jacob died fighting cancer on November 16 of that same year. After watching Jacob fight his battle, Gary was looking for a way to continue fighting in his honor when he learned about the efforts of Karri and Mitch and all of their daughter's supporters. Raising awareness and finding support for kids and families that are in the fight has become a passion and calling in his life. (2014)
Mitchell Ahlschwede, Treasurer, Board of Directors and Co-founder of Pediatric Cancer Action Network
Mitch is married to Karri Shiers-Ahlschwede and resides in Lincoln where they raise seven children. When he is not working as a locomotive engineer for BNSF Railways, he spends time with his family, enjoys reading, outdoor recreation and attends Southwood Lutheran Church. He was completely unaware of childhood cancer until his youngest daughter was diagnosed with Stage IV, High-Risk Neuroblastoma in Feb of 2013. Being exposed to Leyna's brutal and relentless treatment became an impetus to do more for children with cancer and their families. Mitch became involved in several awareness campaigns leading to legislation at the state level that funds pediatric cancer research and is excited to work as part of a growing organization aimed at families and children facing this fight in the state of Nebraska. (2014)
Leigh Lewis, Secretary, Board of Directors
Leigh Lewis is a wife and mother to four children ages five to fifteen. She is a full-time researcher at Concordia University in Seward, NE. The Lewis family has experienced serious medical events, unrelated to cancer, in recent years, and these events reinforced the importance of the caring, understanding support of others. Leigh is excited about the benefits and support that PCAN will be able to provide to families in need during trying times. (2014)
Erika Shelton, Board of Directors and Co-founder of Pediatric Cancer Action Network
Erika is a hair designer and salon owner in Lincoln, NE. Her cousins daughter, Leyna, was diagnosed with stage IV neuroblastoma as a toddler. While seeing the struggles that Leyna and her family went through during her diagnosis and treatment, Erika was eager to help them in any way she could. Now that Leyna has "No Evidence of Disease", Erika is motivated to help other families in Nebraska that are affected by pediatric cancer. (2014)
Kerri Merkel, Board of Directors
Kerri is a registered nurse, a wife, and mother of two boys. She and Karri Shiers have been friends for over 15 years. Kerri was impacted immensely by the struggles that Karri and her family encountered during their daughter's cancer battle. With the help of others, Kerri put on a great fundraiser to help support Karri's family. The success of that fundraiser inspired her to do more! Her goal is to be able to help other families during their struggle with pediatric cancer. (2014)
Julie Bogle-Macke, Board of Directors
Julie is a registered nurse and mother of two children and multiple animals! She started her nursing career as a pediatric nurse and has always loved children. When her co-worker's (Karri's) daughter was diagnosed with cancer, she wanted to do anything she could to help. Along with Kerri Merkel, she came up with the idea to have a fundraiser for Karri's family. She wanted to raise money to help keep Karri with Leyna and her family 24/7 and to help the family with bills. She is passionate about the work Pediatric Cancer Action Network does to help other families during an extremely difficult time. (2014)
Cynthia Sayers, Board of Directors
Cynthia (Hestermann) Sayers is a nurse practitioner and busy raising two boys with her husband, Mike. Her life was deeply impacted by pediatric cancer in March 2012 when her 9-year-old niece, Addison, was diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia and died from complications shortly after diagnosis. Wanting to find a way to honor Addie's life, Cynthia volunteers for Pediatric Cancer Action Network and is passionate about helping children and families facing pediatric cancer. (2015)
Jessica Kjar, Volunteer Coordinator, Board of Directors
Jessica is a registered nurse at Children's Hospital and Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska on 6 Med-Surg which provides the inpatient care for patients and families battling cancer. Jessica has been a pediatric nurse since 2008. Jessica has loved taking care of children since the beginning of her nursing career and her passion for caring for those battling cancer began from her grandfather who battled and passed from cancer when she was young. Fortunately, straight out of nursing school, Jessica found her calling at Children's Hospital to be able to provide care and support to children and their families battling cancer. Jessica has a passion to raise awareness of the unspoken support these families need to have hope and to meet the needs that are calling from every day life. Jessica helped fundraise for PCAN in October 2015 by joining team PCAN who ran in the first annual Nebraska Marathon event in Omaha. Jessica also was touched by Leyna Ahlschwede and her family during Leyna's journey with neuroblastoma. Once Jessica heard about the mission that Karri and Mitchell were embarking on through PCAN, Jessica knew she wanted to do more for this network to be able to provide resources and relief for families during such a vulnerable time in their lives. (2016)
Sarah Christianson, Board of Directors
Sarah is a registered nurse at Lincoln Surgical Hospital. She and her husband have two beautiful children and enjoy spending time with family. Sarah spent countless hours with Karri Ahlschwede during Leyna's battle with Neuroblastoma and witnessed first hand the devastation a family goes through while battling childhood cancer. (2016)
Our programs are designed to further our mission and provide much needed services for our constituents.
Fundraisers and events help us raise awareness and generate crucial resources to serve Nebraska famililes battling childhood cancer. Join us at our next event and see how you can get involved. Click here to see what we are planning now!
Looking for a way to get involved and make a difference? We have lots of opportunities for volunteers to join our cause and make the lives of familes in Nebraska battling childhood cancer just a little brighter! Click here to fill out a volunteer application today!