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Daily Herald Spotlights Elise Titiner and the Smashing Walnuts Foundation


The Daily Herald ran the following article about Metea Valley’s Elise Titiner. Elise and her high school softball teammates raise money for the Smashing Walnuts Foundation, which targets pediatric brain cancer. The Smashing Walnuts Foundation Fund was established within the Community Foundation to support their efforts.

Elise Titiner has no problem with commitment.

“When I find something that I like, I like to stick with that,” the Metea Valley senior said.

A softball player, over the last eight years she’s spent her springs and summers honing her pitching abilities.

A bassoon player since the fifth grade, she’s played in Metea Valley’s Wind Ensemble since sophomore year.

Also since her sophomore year, Titiner has benefitted the Smashing Walnuts Foundation, which targets pediatric brain cancer. The “walnut” was a tumor that in 2013 killed a 10-year-old Virginia girl, Gabriella Miller, who had relatives attending the Titiner family’s synagogue, Congregation Etz Chaim in Lombard.

Elise Titiner grabbed on to that cause and remained steadfast.

In this space we’ve “previewed” each of her prior fundraisers surrounding softball games between Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley. From soliciting pledges per strikeouts by Mustangs pitchers to selling T-shirts and baked goods to the game-day chuck-a-duck contest to outright donations, Titiner’s inspiration has generated about $10,000 toward the foundation, said her father, Steven.

(A local organization, Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley, accepts donations to the Smashing Walnuts Foundation.)

She even received a Spirit of Sportsmanship Award at the Daily Herald’s Prep Sports Excellence Awards in 2014.

“Elise has taken over complete responsibility for the cancer event,” said Metea Valley softball coach Kris Kalivas, the former Waubonsie coach whose ties to both programs make the venture a natural. “She has communicated with Waubonsie Valley, all of the coaches in our program, as well as the athletes in our program. Each year she has tried to make the event bigger and better.”

This year’s fundraiser is on April 20. In addition to the softball teams, the Metea and Waubonsie girls soccer teams are playing after the softball game and have planned their own fundraising strategies.

“I’m hoping it’ll just bring more attention to the whole thing and reach a bigger audience, so I’m really excited about that,” Titiner said.

Perhaps the most uplifting facet of her journey is still in the making.

Shelving softball after the spring, this summer Titiner will be an intern at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, conducting research on Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine Glioma (DIPG), the clinical name for the tumor that felled Gabriella Miller.

“At this point I’m hoping to make it my career,” Titiner said. “I want to do research in college and later.”

She will attend the University of Michigan and aims to earn a master’s degree in four years, then go to medical school — though the emotional strain of working as a physician rather than as a researcher “may be too much for me,” she said.

“It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m hoping to make it happen,” Titiner said of her lofty goals.

Once armed with passion she’s hard to deter. Results on display April 20 — and in a promising future.

“I really hope that people can see what I’m doing and (that) it grabs one person’s attention and makes them see something in the world or take action,” Titiner said. “So many people don’t, and it’s so important.”

…you can always start small, even $25 can make a difference. Remember we can’t take our money with us. Even if it’s just your gift of time. Volunteer and get involved.

Cris Anderson

Cristina & Thomas S. Anderson Endowment Fund | Tom & Cris Anderson Colonial Advisory Fund

A community foundation is a donor-driven organization that helps donors custom-design funds that reflect their charitable interests. Through the years, grants from these funds have made a significant impact on our local communities.

Sharon Stredde

President Emeritus

Thank you very much for supporting my college education for these four years. I will never be able to repay you for the opportunity that this scholarship has given to me.

Julia H.

[Renewing Scholarship Recipient] Graduate of Hinkley-Big Rock High School

There’s no question in my mind that the scholarship I received opened up possibilities.

Marianne Renner

Past Scholarship Recipient & Current Leadership Coach

We chose the Community Foundation because of its reputation. It’s well known, established and we can trust them to do the job for us.

Dick Schindel

Richard and Susan Schindel Scholarship Funds

As a first-generation college student from a low-income family, I was worried about how I was going to pay for books and supplies. This scholarship will allow me to focus more on my studies instead of worrying about how to afford college. I am working to not only create opportunities for myself but to motivate future generations. Thank you so much for helping me along this journey!

Moises J.

Claude & Alice Allen Memorial Scholarship Recipient

Community Foundation of the Fox River Valley

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