Two of the well-known Peekskill Brady sisters have started the “This Is Me Scholarship” to encourage youth to accept who they are and overcome adversity, and to honor two friends who helped them through their own hardships.
The scholarship is inspired by and , the Brady sisters’ good friends who died unexpectedly at ages 26 and 28, respectively, in separate incidents last year. Risco and Polhill were two of the most supportive people for the “This is Me” founders, Lauren, 27, and Caitlin, 22, as they dealt with alopecia, a common disease that results in the loss of hair on the scalp and elsewhere on the body.
“It is very important for us to share their legacy with the community and honor their names as they truly inspired us in life, and even more now as our guardian angels,” Lauren Brady said.
Although alopecia is painless, losing your hair as a teenage girl takes an emotional toll and affects self-image and self-confidence, the sisters explain. And their two friends were always there to support and encourage them. Risco even appeared in their to raise awareness of self-confidence issues and of alopecia, released on YouTube last year. Polhill supported the girls in their awareness campaign as well.
"Our purpose is so much more driven now (that Risco and Pohill are gone) because this is what we should be doing and we want to make people's lives better," Lauren said. "They were so supportive of us and proud of what we were doing. We want to do this to help others overcome adversity like they helped us."
Tonight, even though Lauren and Caitlin are still grieving over their loss, they will be smiling when they say Ryan and Caitlin’s names, because they will be honoring them by helping others.
The two asked applicants to submit an essay on how they overcame adversity or helped a friend with hardships. A panel of people close to Risco and Polhill chose the the scholarship winners based on how inspiring their stories were and several other factors (letter of recommendation, resume, acceptance into a college). The panel was not aware of whose applications they were reading when they made their choices. Peekskill High School’s Caitlin Orhelein and Valerie Kropf were selected.
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“These girls are just so inspiring and their stories are so amazing,” Lauren said. “They have faced horrible situations but have worked to become successful in the face of adversity and are still able to have smiles on their faces.”
Orhelein will be attending SUNY New Paltz and Kropf will be attending SUN Platsburgh next year. They will receive their awards at a Peekskill Senior Awards Ceremony at the at 7 p.m. tonight.
To learn more about the “This is Me” campaign and scholarship, email the Brady’s at promo@LNBentertainment.com.