The Jared Box Project Receives Kayla Nakonechni Knight Award for Positive Impact on Pediatric Cancer Patients

The Jared Box Project has received the Kayla Nakonechni Knight Award in recognition for making a difference in the lives of pediatric cancer patients. The honor is bestowed annually by the Philadelphia Chapter of the Penn State Alumni Association

Throughout the year, Alumni Association chapters hold fundraising events in support of Penn State’s Dance Marathon (THON.)  On February 25, the fundraising efforts culminated at the Philadelphia Chapter’s annual Liberty Ball Gala held at the Crystal Tea Room, where the award was presented.

“At the Gala each year, we award the Kayla Nakonechni Knight Award to a person or non-profit organization making a difference in the Pediatric Cancer sector. This year, we selected The Jared Box Project as our recipient,” said Shane White, President, Penn State Alumni Association, Philadelphia Chapter, and Committee Chair, The Liberty Ball.

 “The story and efforts of The Jared Box Project inspired our committee. It is incredible to see how the Jared Box Project helps children locally and across the country.By honoring a person/organization each year, we will remember and honor Kayla for her strength, courage, and incredible passion for THON.”

Kayla Nakonechni, who the award is named after, was a Penn State student and Penn State Dance Marathon (THON) dancer when she was diagnosed with Stage 4 astrocytoma. In August 2013, she underwent surgery to have a tumor removed from her left brain. Kayla elected to have all of her procedures and treatment at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, in large part due to her passion for THON. Kayla immediately took her incredible strength and a positive attitude into six weeks of daily radiation and weekly chemotherapy.

“What an incredible honor it is for The Jared Box Project to receive this meaningful award,” said Cindy Kolarik, the organization’s executive director. “Kayla is such an inspiration and her courage, strength, and passion for helping others are so heartwarming. I think that Jared and Kayla are kindred spirits. Our Jared Boxes honor their memory and bring joy and smiles to children in the hospital. Thank you and congratulations to The Liberty Ball for raising over $26,000 in support of THON.” 

For over 20 years Jared Boxes have delivered countless smiles, laughter, and hope to children in hospitals across the country. The mission of The Jared Box Project is to bring joy and smiles to children in the hospital. A Jared Box is a plastic shoebox filled with small gifts, toys, cards, games, and other fun activities. The project was started in State College, Pennsylvania, and is now a nationally recognized nonprofit, with nearly one million Jared Boxes made. To learn more, visit

Presentation of Kayla Nakonechi Knigh Award Presentation.

Pictured from the left to right:  Peter Nakonechni, Jeanne Nakonechni, Cindy Kolarik, Shane White, Nicole Herbert

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