A big heart

First Posted: 6/26/2014

Olivia Connors has spent the last three years celebrating the day of her birth giving back to the community, and this year, the soon-to-be 13-year-old is gearing up for her largest fundraiser yet.

Connors, of Shavertown, is planning a golf tournament to benefit family friend Tracy Phillips, a single mom from Luzerne trying to make ends meet while undergoing treatments for stage III breast cancer.

Breast cancer is a cause close to Connors’ heart. Her mother’s friend, Kelly Pomrinke, died of the disease and her aunt, Holly Fry, had a double mastectomy last year after being diagnosed with stage I breast cancer.

“I like helping out,” said Connors, a student at Dallas Middle School. “I feel like I needed to help, like it’s my job.”

Connors has raised more than $600 for the Susan G. Komen organization in the past three years. Every year, she would have a roller skating party for her birthday and ask friends and family to bring donations instead of presents.

“At one of my birthday parties, one of my friend’s parents couldn’t believe I was doing this and my mother wasn’t making me do it,” said Connors.

The golf tournament idea started as a way to grow Connors’ charity work, but once the family found out about Phillips’ diagnosis, the scope of the project changed.

“It was supposed to be held in memory of Kelly Pomrinke and in honor of Holly Fry,” said Connors.

Fry, who is now cancer-free, said the original idea was to donate the proceeds to the Susan G. Komen organization again.

“Now that we are able to help someone directly, that kind of changed things,” she said. “It’s different when you get to help someone you know, love and care about.”

Fry said Phillips’ treatments are difficult to undergo while working to support three children. She said Phillips is on short-term disability while traveling to Philadelphia for days at a time to receive chemotherapy.

“Just the gas alone is a major expense,” said Fry.

Connors said she hopes the golf tournament will help raise much more money than she has in years past. She said helping others is part of her life now, and she hopes to continue the tradition for years to come.

“I’m sure other people do it, but not as many,” she said. “I’m sure most people want to help but they just don’t know how. I know how and I just do it.”

Fry said Connors does receive birthday gifts from close family members, and sometimes she even encourages the 12-year-old to take a year off.

“I said to her, ‘Maybe next year, have your day,” said Fry. “And she always says no. She wants to keep doing this.”

Connors said she gets a lot of help from her mother, Rebecca Banks, but really enjoys being able to help others.

“It’s not only about working to help others,” said Connors. “It’s also a lot of fun.”

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