Twins Team Up to Help Cancer Survivors

Nicole and Ashley Larson

Nicole Larson, left, and twin sister Ashley practice their swing dance moves during a break in preparations for Spring Swing, a dance event they organized to benefit UNC’s Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute. Photo by Barry LaPoint

UNC students and twin sisters Nicole and Ashley Larson didn’t let setbacks in their family life while growing up in Greeley stop them from realizing their dreams of attending college, and of helping other people.

In fact, those setbacks brought them even closer together than most twins inherently are. Through good times and bad times, they always knew that they could depend on each other. That sense of trust serves them well in a variety of situations, including when they’re organizing a major event like the March 26 Spring Swing dance event to benefit UNC’s Rocky Mountain Cancer Rehabilitation Institute.

Their father was no longer a part of their lives when their mother died of a drug overdose when the sisters were 13. Fortunately, an aunt and uncle also living in Greeley were glad to take them in, so their lives weren’t disrupted further.

But then the aunt and uncle divorced, and the girls’ future seemed uncertain again until arrangements were made for them to live with their aunt.

The girls – determined to not let the twists of fate overwhelm them – threw themselves into sports at Greeley West High School – track, cross-country and volleyball – and into living healthy lifestyles – running in recreational 5K races, bicycling and healthful foods.

When they were seniors, the Larson sisters’ penchant for running in 5K races and a desire to do something to help others led them to organize their own 5K race to benefit the cancer treatment unit at Children’s Hospital in Denver.

With no experience other than as runners, the pair pulled off the race and raised more than $1,500.

Earlier this year, Nicole, a junior double majoring in Sport and Exercise Science, and Psychology, started thinking it was time to organize another fundraiser to help the less fortunate out. Over a short period of time, an idea came to her.

“I realized that cancer was affecting the lives of several people in my life,” Nicole said. “The wives of a couple of my professors, a friend, a family member, and then it hit me that we could raise money for university’s cancer rehabilitation center and honor cancer survivors at the same time.”

Ashley, a Nursing major, was all for it. They mentioned their plan to a few classmates and before they knew it, they had a team of 20 classmates and friends eager to help them. An idea to hold a relatively low-key dance turned into a night of free swing dance classes, dancing to Big Band music provided by the UNC jazz band followed by dancing to contemporary country, rap and hip hop music played by a DJ, complimentary hors d’œuvres donated by a local eatery and a cash bar, and a ceremony recognizing cancer survivors.

“It just sort of snowballed as people came up with ideas and offered to act on them,” Nicole said. “It was definitely a team effort.”

Even before the Spring Swing had been held, the Larsons were already thinking about their next fundraiser. They hope to organize another benefit-for-cancer 5K run this fall that will allow at least the fastest runners to finish to the cheers of the crowd in Nottingham Stadium during halftime of a Bears football game.

“Finishing a race in front of that many cheering people would be pretty inspiring,” Nicole said. “So would honoring cancer survivors, which is also part of the plan.”

- Gary Dutmers

About the Spring Swing
About the RMCRI