Members of the Iowa State University civil, construction and environmental engineering (CCEE) community join together to support one of their own as he continues to fight brain cancer. Andy Stika, 2011 civil engineering graduate, was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma in March 2012. Recently, faculty, students, co-workers and friends have generated donations to help Stika cover his medical expenses.
Whether or not they have met Stika, members of the CCEE community worked together throughout the year to support the civil engineering graduate. “I don’t think I can emphasize how important coming together for a cause like this is,” said construction engineering senior Jes Besonen. “CCEE at Iowa State is a community and family of its own. You learn really fast that this is your second home.”
Lecturer Beth Hartmann teamed up with one of Stika’s co-workers at Caterpillar, Nathan Lentz (BSCE’11), to raise money by selling T-shirts and wristbands in April. At the 2012 CCEE Welcome Picnic in August, Hartmann, along with many students, sold the T-shirts and bracelets sporting the phrase created to support Stika, “Never Surrender.”
In October, their donation efforts continued with a contest, with the grand prizes being the opportunities to shave the heads of volunteer CCEE instructors and teaching assistants. Besonen, a student involved with the contest, got donations from local businesses for the door prizes. With each $1 donation, the buyer could cast a vote for which instructor’s head they would like to see shaved by the lucky winners. On October 29, Hartmann conducted the drawing in the Town Engineering lobby, with prizes not only being the head shavings, but also gift cards for Ames restaurants and other businesses. The contest alone raised $3,031, according to Hartmann.
Besonen and construction engineering senior Alex Grandgeorge won the opportunities to shave Professor Shashi Nambisan’s and graduate student and teaching assistant Hongtao Dang’s heads, which took place on October 29. Hartmann and Senior Lecturer Matt Rouse received the highest number of votes and had their heads shaved by contest winners Thursday, December 6.
Among many other benefits, Besonen said activities such as this bridge the gap between faculty and students and allow for interaction outside academics. Students are actively involved, knowing that if they were in Stika’s situation, they would appreciate the help. In addition to helping Stika pay for medical expenses, they hope simply knowing that there are hundreds of people cheering him on without ever meeting him will give him strength.
“Knowing that people believe in you is a powerful feeling,” said Besonen.
To keep the donations coming, graduate student and teaching assistant Kyle Vansice agreed to have his head shaved if the group could collected $500 more by December 3. The group collected $1,100 more, bringing total donations to about $4,100.
Stika writes in a blog about his journey battling cancer. On September 3, he said the following after his 24th birthday celebration: “Overall it was not too shabby of a birthday … Team Never Surrender is a pretty (superlative) good team to be a part of. Just a heads (up) for next year when Team Never Surrender is celebrating our win over Cancer!” Check out latest entries at www.caringbridge.org/visit/andrewstika.
Andrew Faust, civil engineering senior and friend of Stika, said during his time at Iowa State, Stika was always there to offer helpful advice and a positive attitude. “He contributed a lot to the CE community, and now we can return the favor and support him,” said Faust.
To view more photos from the recent contest, visit https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.510812972262749.121658.261689837175065&type=3. Join the “Never Surrender” cause at a Facebook group page called “Andy Stika Raffle Fundraiser.”
The group is still taking donations – contact Hartmann at firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
CCEE Communications Intern Brady Rebhuhn contributed to this story.