JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Billy’s by the Bay owner Billy Gremler gives 8-year-old Hannah Prokop a T-shirt Thursday at the Southold Town Police Department. Hannah also presented him with a plaque for supporting her family’s ‘Hannah’s Cans for Cancer’ program.
Twelve-year-old Hannah Prokop of Mattituck is excited today because her braces are coming off. But it will only be a short while until those metal wires are wrapped around her teeth again.
Her braces are being temporarily removed because she needs to have an MRI, which isn’t an uncommon procedure for this Mattituck-Cutchogue 8th grader to undergo. Since 2007, Hannah has endured surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, physical therapy, tests, pokes and prods after she was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
When she was 7 years old, Hannah was first hospitalized to undergo cancer treatment. After becoming an oncology outpatient, Hannah decided she wanted to do something to help other sick children in hospitals. Soon after she and her mother, Kim, came up with the idea of recycling cans to help children cancer patients after reading about how a local woman raised money for charities from recycling.
Hannah’s Cans for Cancer was then born and it has already raised about $25,000 through the collection of cans and private donations.
Ms. Prokop said the community’s support has been tremendous, because everyday she finds a new bag of cans in front of her house.
As a way of saying “thank you” to local businesses for their support, Ms. Prokop and her daughter handed out plaques Thursday during a ceremony at the Southold Town Police Department. Among the honorees were members of the police department, Billy’s by the Bay, Riverhead Beverage and Friar’s Head.
“Hannah is no longer in the hospital, but her life and our lives have been changed forever by her cancer diagnosis,” Ms. Prokop said during the presentation. “We have been inspired to help others, especially the children suffering with this disease. This is our small way of giving back and, hopefully, brightening the life of a child with cancer.”
Hannah said she’s grateful for the community’s support and is especially thankful for her mom always being by her side.
“She helps me with a lot,” Hannah said. “She always finds a way to help me.”
Riverhead Beverage owner Kevin McKillop said he first got involved with the fundraising efforts after bumping into Hannah and her father, Dave, at Walbaum’s in Mattituck as sorted cans and bottles to recycle — one by one.
Mr. McKillop said he offered to take that daunting task off their hands since he also operates a state licensed redemption center in Riverhead.
“We have full time employees that are separating empties all day,” he said. “I told them they could just drop the empties off because the time it was taking to separate them was a lot of work.”
Billy’s by the Bay owner Billy Gremler said he heard about the Hannah’s Cans for Cancer from Mr. McKillop and said he was happy to donate the cans his business accumulates.
“Every Monday we put the cans on their driveway,” he said. “The community has been good to us and we want to give something back.”
For more information about the program, visit www.hannahpro.blogspot.com.