Greenville 8-year-old wins $10,000 to help fellow cancer patients


By Kelli Ameling • Last Updated 5:51 pm on Friday, December 02, 2011

Blake Hulliberger gets ready to help unload a car full of snacks at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital. — Courtesy photo

EUREKA TOWNSHIP — Eight-year-old Blake Hulliberger is helping other children like him with $10,000 he won by placing sixth in the Pepsi Refresh Contest.

Hulliberger, of Greenville, was diagnosed  with leukemia in 2009 and relapsed in September. That didn’t stop him from entering a contest and winning $10,000 to collect snacks and “poke prizes.”

Poke prizes are gifts children get after receiving a shot.

“There have been a lot of times that I go to the clinic and there is nothing to eat,” Hulliberger said. “I see other kids there all day too looking for a snack for their bellies.”

Hulliberger’s mother, Kristeen Hulliberger, said sometimes children are at the clinic from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. receiving chemotherapy, which is hard on the their stomachs. The snacks help calm that feeling.

Blake Hulliberger said the poke prizes were getting very low and that is something he looks forward to when he gets his shots.

“So do all the other kids,” he said. “These are the two things that help me get through a clinic visit and I wanted to give back too. I like to see smiles on the other kids’ faces.”

The Pepsi Refresh Contest allowed people to go to its website and vote for a project. People could also enter up to 10 yellow-cap codes per day from Pepsi products.

“(We collected) over 2,000 caps,” Blake Hulliberger said. “(I’ve learned) that everyone is out to help me make a difference and turn this horrible cancer into something positive.”

He and his mother have made one trip so far to Spectrum Health’s Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids with the poke prizes. Blake Hulliberger said he was able to buy prizes like baseball bats filled with gum, Hot Wheels cars, camouflage wallets, ear buds, Axe body spray, baby toys and a lot more.

Blake and his parents also made 50 stockings for children who have to spend the holidays at the hospital.

“We focused a lot on snacks for this round,” Kristeen Hulliberger said.

Some of the snacks they were able to bring were fruit snacks, candy bars, crackers, cookies, cereals, Chef Boyardee cans and more.

Kristeen Hulliberger said everyone was blown away when they dropped off the first load. She said many patients and their families were helping to make lists of items to buy.

“It was as though we were all a team going for one goal and that was to help kids fighting cancer at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital,” she said. “The smiles and the joy of the kids and all the workers at the hospital made it all worth it.”

Blake Hulliberger stands by the wall of the snacks and poke prizes he was able to buy with his $10,000 prize from the Pepsi Refresh Contest. He will make a total of 10 drop-offs to the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids. Top, Blake Hulliberger and his parents made 50 Christmas stockings full of snacks and poke prizes for children who will spend the holiday at the children’s hospital. — Courtesy photos

All of the snacks and poke prizes will go to the children’s hospital for kids who are fighting cancer. The clinic sees an average of 40 children per day and the in-patient floor has around 20 patients, she said.

“That’s over 200 kids a week in need of snacks and prizes,” she said. “So the need for snacks and poke prizes are always ongoing.”

Blake Hulliberger and his parents will be making one drop-off per month for the next nine months to the children’s hospital.

Kristeen Hulliberger said they have learned they have an amazing support group that they call “Team Blake.”

“So many people were drinking a ton of Pepsi products to get the yellow caps,” She said. “We had people collecting the caps everywhere.”

Kristeen Hulliberger said Blake is doing well despite relapsing in September.

“His intense chemotherapy has been working and he is feeling better than expected through the holiday season,” she said. “Blake is still on track to finish with treatments in September of 2012.”

She added his tests are coming back great and that Blake has made it back to school this year.

“We are very thankful to see him doing well,” Kristeen Hulliberger said. “He seems to be working hard and loving it.”

A year from now, Blake Hulliberger said, there is going to still be a need for snacks and poke prizes for patients.

“My wish is that someone or company would like to join in and help with the snacks and prizes when the money runs out,” he said.

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