Friday Frontline: Alex Trebek’s Family Donates His Wardrobe to Help Underserved Populations Re-Enter the Workforce, 12-Year-Old’s Beach Vacation Wish Is Granted and More

February 12, 2021
Jessica Skarzynski
Jessica Skarzynski

From a 12-year-old girl living out her dream of living on the beach after 10 years of neuroblastoma treatments to Alex Trebek’s legacy living on after his passing, here’s what’s happening in the cancer space this week.

After his death due to pancreatic cancer, Alex Trebek’s legacy of kindness endures through the donation of a “significant portion” of his wardrobe to The Doe Fund.

The non-profit aims to help underserved Americans get back on their feet, and Trebek’s wardrobe will be given to those who participate in the organization’s well-known “reentry program”, Ready, Willing & Able.

"During his last day on set, Alex extolled the virtues of everyone opening up their hands and their hearts to those who are suffering," Mike Richards, the show's executive producer, said in a “Jeopardy!” press release. "Donating his wardrobe to those who are working to rebuild their lives is the perfect way to begin to honor that last request."

12-year-old girl gets month-long beach vacation wish granted after discontinuing treatment for stage 4 neuroblastoma.

Along with her family, Indiana native Israelle ‘Izzy’ Mattocks, who has been living with the rare cancer for more than 10 years, is now spending her days on the beach of St. George Island in Florida, collecting seashells and watching the waves. The trip was made possible thanks to the generosity of friends and family who contributed to a GoFundMe page created to help the family.

But even with the funds, making Izzy’s dream come true was still difficult, due to the short notice and the pandemic. That’s when Nikki West, a Tallahassee resident and homeowner at Saint George Island, offered her home to the family. The generosity of locals who have heard Izzy’s story continues to surprise the Mattocks, with a police escort welcome and an offer to take the family out on a boat to see dolphins, making another wish of Izzy’s come true.

After 10 years of invasive cancer treatments, getting to breathe in the salty air and dip her toes into the ocean is what Izzy calls “her corner of paradise.”

“It’s been unbelievable, this community here that doesn’t even know us at all, and is just like it’s not about the money, they just want to help us and just use your money to take care of your family. It’s been really humbling,” said Izzy’s mom, Molly.

“Today Show” weatherman and co-host Al Roker shared an update on his prostate cancer diagnosis with Kelly Clarkson: “I feel really good.”

On her show this week, Clarkson spoke with Roker, 66, about how he’s doing after undergoing a five-hour surgery on November 9th to remove his prostate along with some surrounding tissue and lymph nodes.

“I was very fortunate,” said Roker. “We caught it early. It was an aggressive form of prostate cancer, but we caught it very early." He went on to remark that his surgeon, Dr. Vincent Laudone of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, “feels we got it all.”

Roker explained that his decision to share his journey was inspired in part by his desire to demonstrate the importance of prostate cancer screenings, particularly in African American men.

A Tennessee-based nonprofit, Survivor Fitness, aims to help cancer survivors find their strength.

Any survivor is welcome to participate no matter their skill level, age, or diagnosis, says the founder of the nonprofit, Aaron Grunke. A cancer survivor himself, Grunke founded the nonprofit after he noticed the gaps in support for survivors’ health after treatment firsthand.

The 12- to 14-week personal training program offers one-on-one workouts and customized nutrition information – professional support that Grunke hopes survivors will take advantage of.

And because fitness looks different for everyone, no two participants’ plans are the same. Breast cancer survivor and oncology nurse Liz Jabson Tree needed someone to take the reins on her fitness journey and make sure she didn’t push herself too hard. “I have enough knowledge to know how to do the things I want to do physically, but I don't necessarily have enough restraint," Jabson Tree said. "Stay strong within yourself and know that it is a battle."

An Oklahoma leukemia survivor was welcomed back to his 5th-grade class with a police escort and a marching band.

Jude Starkey was diagnosed with leukemia two years ago. And while the days were filled with treatments that left Jude stuck in bed and missing holiday celebrations, he was able to celebrate with his friends when he returned to Washington Irving Elementary School on Monday – complete with a police escort, a line of students and teachers, and even a marching band.

“I’m glad this chapter’s over, and I’m ready to get started with the next one,” said Rhiann Starkey, Jude’s mom.

“I feel accomplished, but I don’t think I saved the world or anything,” said Jude.