Local 9-year-old runs a mile a day to bring awareness to breast cancer, raise funds for care packages

Sierra Rains
Arli Woolly running alongside the road near her house in Ardmore. Woolly is running to raise awareness for breast cancer and funds to create care packages for newly diagnosed women.

After seeing her own mother go through recovery, a local 9-year-old girl is running to bring awareness to breast cancer and raise funds for care packages to be distributed to newly diagnosed women. 

Arli Woolly’s mother, Melissa, was diagnosed with breast cancer in June of 2019. Following her diagnosis Melissa Woolly said she wanted to be as open and honest with her children as possible. 

“We just sat down with them and told them what was going on,” Melissa Woolly said. “’Mom has been diagnosed with breast cancer and I don’t want y’all to be scared.’ My kids have a full understanding because we were so honest with it.”

Throughout her recovery, Melissa Woolly’s children helped take care of her and Arli, who is her youngest, helped administer her medication and changed the dressings on her wounds. 

When the month of October, designated as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, rolled around, Arli wanted to do something to help others and bring awareness to the disease. “My mom had it and I want to help other people going through it,” Arli Woolly said. 

On the first of the month, Arli Woolly took off on her first run. She is running a mile each day until the end of October and asking people to sponsor her in order to collect funds to make care packages for women who have been newly diagnosed. 

The Woolly family’s next door neighbors were the first to donate to their fundraiser. “It’s really cool, our neighbors knew she was doing it. We took off and our neighbors were on the front porch yelling ‘Go Arli’!” Melissa Woolly said. “So she got really excited.”

Melissa Woolly said she has friends who would bring her care packages throughout her recovery. The packages included items like journals, fuzzy blankets, pajamas and a fall-proof bath mat. 

Arli Woolly stands next to some of the items that will be going into care packages for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

More unusual items like the fall-proof bath mat ended up coming in handy while she was healing from various surgeries. Simple tasks like taking a shower can be extremely difficult due to the pain, and it can be tough to remain steady, Melissa Woolly said. 

“You don’t think about it but you’re so unsteady because you literally can’t keep your arms out, it’s just excruciating pain,” Melissa Woolly said. “Everything in there I utilized and she really put some thought into that. So that’s kind of what we’re thinking with the care packages is things like that that I really utilized.”

About a week into running, Arli Woolly already had several people sponsoring her. With the money raised so far, Arli and her mother have ordered their first shipment of items for the care packages. Some of the items include journals, ink pens, fuzzy socks and blankets, and soaps— all wrapped up in a nice bag. 

Melissa Woolly said they have raised enough money to make 25 bags so far. Breast cancer has connected Melissa Woolly with many women in the area going through the same thing, and people will commonly reach out to her when they know someone who has been newly diagnosed. 

As a way of reaching many local women, Melissa Woolly said she and her daughter will be bringing the care packages to the surgeon that did her bilateral mastectomy.

“We’ll give those bags to her and she’ll distribute those to the women that are diagnosed,” Melissa Woolly said. “We’re going to get to start putting our first gift bag together and start getting those out. Arli’s pretty excited about that."

Melissa Woolly said it’s important to let newly diagnosed women know there’s someone out there who cares and is thinking about them, and she hopes her daughter’s idea will grow into an annual, local fundraiser. 

Though she had a fall and badly scraped up her knee one evening, Arli Woolly got back up and has continued to run a mile each day. “It’s kind of hard,” Arli Woolly said, but worth it. “It’s important to finish the month and to help people.” 

To make a donation or find out more information, contact Melissa Woolly at (580) 319-8571 or email heroeswithhope@outlook.com.