Ds Scholarship

Grayslake North Cancer Survivor Wins $20,000 Bears Scholarship

GRAYSLAKE, IL — As far as Fiona Campbell knew, she and her parents were sitting down for a Zoom call to discuss taking the next step toward achieving her dreams of a college education.

Never in her wildest dreams did the Grayslake North High School senior expect that the Chicago Bears would enter the chat with news that came as a total surprise and, more than a week later, hasn’t completely sunk in.

Campbell, who will graduate in May, recently learned that $20,000 of her costs at Carthage College will be covered after she was named the annual recipient of the Bears’ Collin Wehr Scholarship.

Find out what’s happening in Grayslakewith free, real-time updates from Patch.

The award is presented to young cancer survivors or to the siblings of children who lost their battle with pediatric cancer. Campbell was born with neurofibromatosis, which is a genetic disorder of the nervous system that resulted in the Grayslake teenager developing three brain tumors as a child.

She underwent three rounds of chemotherapy to treat the tumors but has never allowed cancer to stop her from chasing after her dreams. Campbell underwent a 12-hour surgery in 2019 to remove tumors from her stomach and back, which is the most recent obstacle that she has overcome on her way toward becoming a future college freshman.

Find out what’s happening in Grayslakewith free, real-time updates from Patch.

During her high school career, Campbell has served with the Village of Round Lake Heights and has volunteered for Feed My Starving Children. She plans to study Special Education at Carthage thanks to the support that she has received throughout her education at Grayslake North.

The scholarship from the Bears just proved to be an unexpected blessing.

“It just means so much to me just because of how far I have come in my medical journey and being able to go to college and say that I did it,” Fiona told Patch on Tuesday. “We are a big football family and football helped a lot with our family.

“It took me a minute to realize what was happening and then I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, the Bears. ….It’s amazing. Everything I’ve been through, I didn’t want to be different. I just wanted to be with my peers and I didn’t want to be held back. So going to college always meant so much to me.”

Fiona’s, Amy Campbell mother, encouraged her daughter to apply for the Wehr scholarship after no scholarship money had come through until the recent news arrived. To do so, Fiona wrote two essays and got recommendations from teachers at school all in hopes of obtaining financial assistance to help pay for school. Amy Campbell said she learned that her daughter was this year’s recipient by email — news that brought her to tears given all Fiona has endured.

Through it all, Fiona has managed to keep a smile on her face and a positive attitude as she continues to deal with everything that life throws at her. Amy Campbell said her daughter has always put helping others in front of her own life journey and never wanted to be a burden to anyone.

Amy Campbell said her family has always treated Fiona like she is normal because living with pediatric cancer has become part of the family’s reality. While many don’t even realize the illness is something Fiona lives with, the fact she has conquered everything in her path makes the Wehr scholarship a true honor.

But after learning that Fiona would be the recipient of the award, it was up to her parents to keep the news a surprise until the call actually took place.

“We had this little surprise planned for a week and a half and couldn’t say anything,” Amy Campbell told Patch.

She added: “(The scholarship) meant the world to her. Fiona has been through so much in her life with illness and being in and out of the hospital and the (2019) surgery at really pivotal points in her life…. so this has just given her so much confidence. This has just given her a new platform for life.”

Fiona was surprised on the Zoom call by Bears offensive lineman Teven Jenkins and team chairman George McCaskey. Jenkins told Campbell that he knew she was expecting to be on a call with Carthage College financial assistance representatives, but wanted to instead tell her that she is this year’s Wehr Scholarship recipient.

The fact Jenkins and McCaskey took Fiona by surprise caused her to wonder what was happening.

“But then I remembered, ‘Oh my gosh, that scholarship,'” Fiona Campbell said Tuesday. “Then I got really excited.”

McCaskey wished Campbell luck and congratulated her on behalf of everyone in the Bears organization.

“Go change the world,” McCaskey told Campbell on the video call.

Campbell covered her face in surprise as Jenkins told her that she was being awarded the $20,000 award.

“Oh, my goodness,” she said. “Thank you so much. I’m like lost for words.”

Fiona and her family are huge fans of all Chicago sports teams, but especially the Bears, which makes the source of the scholarship even more special, Amy Campbell said. The fact the scholarship isn’t based on academics but instead on a facet of life that is truly unique to Fiona made the honor even more meaningful.

“It’s like the cherry on top of the sundae,” Amy Campbell said.

Since the call, Fiona said the reality the Bears will be part of the process of paying for her college education.

“I’m still a little bit in shock,” Fiona told Patch. “I think it’s going to take a little while for this to sink in.”

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