2017 Andre Sobel Award Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2017 Andre Sobel Award! 

Click on the links below for messages of hope and encouragement from our amazing Award Winners on the "Letters from a Friend" website. 

First Place:  Olivia Gaines, pictured above

You can read Olivia's story and her letter to a friend entitled "When Cancer Takes Center Stage" on our website designed especially for newly diagnosed young patients and their famlies. Olivia's friendship and wisdom — and the compassionate advice from all of the Andre Sobel Award winners — might be just what a new patient most desperately needs in the face of uncertainty. Please share the Letters From a Friend website with the young patients you know.  

Second Place:  Patrick Hoyack 

and his brother and companion writer Casey Hoyack 

Third Place: Emily Muller 

Honorable Mentions:  Aspen Heidekrueger, Deckard Montesanto,

Kathryn Nafgzer, Abby Snider and her mother and companion writer

Amy Snider 



Why was the Andre Sobel Award created?


Young people who are diagnosed with a life threatening illness are set off on a journey that is different from adult experience.

For a young person, peers are the most important citizens of their world, and a painful consequence of illness can be isolation from these friends, a loss which is among the harshest to bear.  They are not forgotten, but the relationships with friends become strained and many will fall silent, feeling a loss of words or afraid to say the wrong thing.

In recognition of Andre’s struggle with this challenge (that happens all too often for other young people), and to honor his memory and his love for literature and writing, the Andre Sobel River of Life Foundation offers an annual essay award for survivors of catastrophic illness.

The winning essays ultimately will be  published online and in other formats to provide a road map that will help young people communicate and “be” in this uncharted territory.  While Andre Sobel was not able to pursue his plans for college and beyond, it is the intention of the Andre Sobel Award that winners use their award funds in any way they choose to fulfill a cherished dream.