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Noelle Karmo

Making a difference in the lives of others

Noelle Karmo wears pink a lot, but not because it’s her favorite color. She wears pink to show her support for breast cancer awareness. When Noelle was 3, her mother, who was only 32, was diagnosed with breast cancer. If you’ve ever had a sick parent, you know just how scary it can be. Fortunately, Noelle’s mom survived and, after getting through breast cancer, started an organization to help other young women with breast cancer. What was Noelle’s response? She wanted to know how she could help. Read our interview with Noelle to learn how she gives back and makes a difference in the lives of others.

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How old are you?

I am 11 years old.

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What are your interests and hobbies?

Playing Xbox and making fun music videos with friends and family.

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Will you please tell us about your mom’s organization?

My mom’s organization is called the Tigerlily Foundation. She created it to help young women with breast cancer. The organization helps them pay their bills. It also provides meals, gift bags, and support from other women who had breast cancer. It also educates young girls and people in the community about breast cancer in young women, and it supports young women living with stage IV (which means advanced) breast cancer by paying for them to get massages and coaching and gym memberships after treatment. One of the programs also sends survivors on vacation. To raise funds for women who have breast cancer, Tigerlily hosts events.

My mom also wrote a book about her life journey, called “Fearless.” We often go to book signings together. I sign books with her, and she speaks about Tigerlily and breast cancer.

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Why did you want to get involved?

I wanted to get involved so I could help women who have breast cancer. My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was 3, and I remember being afraid and wondering what would happen to her. She was very tired, but she worked, took care of me, cooked, cleaned, and made sure I was okay. She also started the Tigerlily Foundation while she was in treatment.

My mom is really strong. She helps so many people and does it without thinking about it. Through her work, she’s met some great people. I watched how she helped women with breast cancer, and I wanted to help, too. It made me realize that when you help people, a lot of good happens.

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What was the first fundraising activity you planned?

The first event I planned was a cupcake fundraiser. My mom, some of my friends, and I found a restaurant that wanted to support Tigerlily. We put feather boas everywhere as decorations, and my friends and I sold cupcakes. I was so happy to see how many people wanted to help. Some people even left to get money from the ATM machine so they could come back and buy a cupcake.

The next time we had a launch party for our EmPOWER Ball — our big gala — and I set a goal to raise $1,000. I didn’t tell my mom about it, but after two hours, I felt bad that I had only raised $800. I told my mom about my goal, and she told me to talk to people about what I needed to reach it. It worked! One of her friends gave me the rest of the money to meet my goal!

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As you’ve gotten older, how have your fundraising activities grown?

Selling cupcakes and meeting my fundraising goal made me realize that you just have to go after what you want and believe — that’s what my mom always says. She loves that word, “believe.”

I wanted to try more fundraisers. I had this idea for a Pajama Glam Party, but when I first came up with it, I was only 6. My mom said I was too young. She said she wanted to make sure I did what I wanted and not just follow her footsteps. She wanted me to have my own dreams, but it really was my dream to help women and girls, so I kept asking her. Finally, when I turned 10, I talked to my mom about my idea again, and she agreed. She said I was old enough to know what I wanted and she would help me make it happen.

At first, no one really thought you could have a party for breast cancer, especially one where you wear pajamas, dance, and have pillow fights. That didn’t stop me. I showed up and told the Tigerlily board my ideas, and they thought it would be cool and helped me bring them to life.

The first Pajama Glam Party was a success. More than 300 people attended. The second event was even bigger, with more than 400 people. I want to continue to see it grow. This year, we not only hosted events in Washington, DC, but we also had one in New York, too. I want to have Pajama Glam Parties in as many states as possible because it is very important to educate girls and women about their bodies, prevention, and health.

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What’s the most rewarding part about fundraising for a cause like breast cancer?

I like to see the women who have breast cancer smile and to give them hope. I love the smile on everyone’s faces at Pajama Glam Parties and other events.

I also like the events because I think these are places where women with breast cancer can feel comfortable. I don’t want them to feel like they have to cover up their bald heads with a wig or scarf. I think they should be proud. Women are beautiful just as they are.

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What do your friends think about what you do?

My friends think it’s really cool, and they like to come to the events. They are really excited, and they say they are proud of me, but it’s just what I like to do. I think we are supposed to help others, so I don’t see that it is something that is out of the ordinary. I encourage everyone to give back.

My friends also learn a lot at the events. They learn about prevention, exercise, health tips, and breast cancer. They learn about healthy choices they can make now to help prevent breast cancer later. I hope that they’ll learn the facts about breast cancer and spread the word. Maybe they can even save a life.

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What advice would you give to other girls who want to give back?

No idea or dream is impossible. You can make a difference at any age.

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Interested in giving back to your community? Volunteering is a great way to develop your interests and skills while helping others at the same time. To learn more, check out our information on volunteering.

Content last reviewed August 01, 2014
Page last updated August 01, 2014

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women's Health.