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Brenda Rider
H.O.P.E. Award 2023

Born and raised in Austintown in a family of seven kids., one had to learn how to share at a young age, or else!   She graduated from YSU with a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement administration, went on to be a police officer in Austintown, started the video arraignment in the county jail and currently works as an outside service bailiff for the city of  Youngstown .

At age 37, Brenda was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer which gave her life purpose. While receiving treatment, she had always been a poet and songwriter and those aforementioned gifts allowed her to share her journey with others while encouraging them to put their thoughts and feelings into words. The nurses would take the poems and fax them to other cancer hospitals. Soon, poems of cancer life were being faxed across the United States. 

It was then that ‘A Way With Words Foundation, Inc.’ was founded. Those poems, songs and artwork were circulated and published by the foundation. Because Brenda is a songwriter, she reached out to Tod Children’s Hospital and met kids who also were going through treatment. She’d bring her guitar and spend the afternoon visiting with kids and for that brief moment, each forgot where they were.

Soon and with the help of fellow musicians, she founded ROCK which stands for Raising Our Commitment to cancer Kids. The second “c” is small because our goal is to make cancer a small part of their lives moving forward. The choir was comprised of survivors, siblings and those touched by cancer. They range in age from 2 to 20 and beyond. These kids were ambassadors for cancer care and surviving, and during this time each would get together at Tod’s because the kids in treatment could join us.  For a few short hours, they forgot they were in a hospital. None of these kids or their families knew each other but after a few days we all were family, even today.

Our ROCcK choir traveled to children’s hospitals, VA hospitals, Hospice and treatment centers all over the Eastern United States. We’ve recorded CD’s with all original, positive music that tells our story. Today, the choir is no longer touring but they are doing amazing work. These kids have grown up to be nurses, pediatric oncologists, engineers and the most important profession of all,  parents. This lifetime achievement award should go to these amazing kids.

Today, Brenda donates her time raising money to help other children in need, her latest venture to raise money to build Leonard Kirtz Playground in Austintown by her annual Kite Festival April 30, 2023 at Austintown Township Park.

Just remember “There’s Hope in What we Do!”

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