Young Donor Inspires Support for Research
...Fundraising Starts with Manicure Party

Donor Carly Wilensky with Dr. Douglas Merkel

Carly Wilensky was only 4 ½ years-old when her mother Dina was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2008. Although her mother is doing fine now, the 10-year-old who likes to be in plays, swim and play tennis, is old enough to understand how important it is to find a cure.

A few months ago, Carly raised $121 by doing manicures at the Wilenskys’ neighborhood block party and proudly brought the check earmarked for breast cancer research to NorthShore Highland Park Hospital’s Kellogg Cancer Center, where Dina received treatment.

When Carly turned 10 this October, she told her mom she didn’t want a party or presents. Instead, she wanted the family to donate funds for breast cancer research. Her parents surprised her with a birthday party, including a party bus and trip to downtown Chicago for lunch, and asked Carly’s 39 friends not to bring presents but to donate to NorthShore’s breast cancer research program or to the animal shelter where the Wilenskys adopted their dog Rosey. Thanks to the generosity of Carly’s family and friends, $625 has been raised for breast cancer research so far.

Carly, a fourth grader at South Park School in Deerfield, “wants to help the doctor who helped [her] mom” so the funds will support the research of Dina’s oncologist, Douglas Edward Merkel, MD. The Wilenskys are very grateful to Dr. Merkel, as well as his nurse Diane Nechi-Fragassi, and Leonard Lu, MD, who was Dina’s plastic surgeon.

“It feels good helping other moms who have breast cancer by supporting research so doctors can provide the best care. I want other kids who have moms with breast cancer to feel their mom is safe and getting better, just like mine did,” said Carly.

“The kindness Carly and her family and friends have shown to NorthShore is a wonderful testament to our program and staff and we couldn’t be more appreciative of their gifts,” said Dr. Merkel. “Their support of breast cancer research will help us improve patient outcomes and further enhance treatment options.”

Dina and Jay Wilensky are not surprised by Carly’s generosity and desire to help others. She was young when Dina was diagnosed, had a double mastectomy and four rounds of chemotherapy. “She was in her princess phase then so we all went together to try on wigs and tried to make the best of it. She could only understand so much, but over the last five years she has blossomed and really become interested in raising funds, like at the block party where she raised money by doing manicures for $1. She has been a trooper throughout this ordeal,” said Dina, who lost her brother two weeks before her breast surgery and a sister six months later.
“I had four miscarriages before Carly and two after her. When I was sick, she was the reason to go on,” said Dina.

To learn more about how you can join us in making an impact by supporting leading-edge research at NorthShore, please visit

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