Nichole Smith knows what it means to fight and what it means to give back.
The breast cancer survivor now works for the nonprofit that she says provided more than help with housework and meals when she needed more.
“They are just so giving of their time and their hearts,” the Sugarcreek Twp. resident and proud member of University Baptist Church in Beavercreek said of the Pink Ribbon Girls. “I could not imagine being anywhere else.”
Pink Ribbon Girls CEO Heather Salazar, Smith’s boss, nominated her for Daytonian of the Week.
“She coordinates with her team to personalize every plan for new clients going through breast and gynecological cancer. She herself is a bad-ass survivor and former Centerville cop,” Salazar said.
We caught up with Smith, who now works to ensure quality of programs for clients in Dayton, Cincinnati, Columbus, Northern Kentucky, the St. Louis, Missouri area, and San Francisco Bay Area in California as Pink Ribbon Girls director of programming.
What superpower would you love to have?
The ability to read minds.
How did you get involved with the Pink Ribbon Girls and why is the nonprofit important to you?
In 2015, I found a lump in my left breast. After misdiagnosis, I was diagnosed with Stage IIB Breast Cancer at the age of 29.
I was fresh out of my second police academy (I worked for Centerville Police Department for 2 1/2 years) and I didn't know anyone who was knowledgeable about breast cancer. My future sister-in-law told me about Pink Ribbon Girls and two weeks after I was diagnosed, I attended my first event. The feeling of warmth and hope overwhelmed the space and I felt safe and affirmed in that moment.
I received free meals and house cleaning while I was recovering from surgery and the moment I was well enough, I began volunteering and eventually found my home and heart's work at PRG.
Two months after diagnosis, my mom (Marsha Wells) passed away. At PRG we often say that we are a family, even if it's the family that you never necessarily wanted to be a part of.
After the passing of my mother, I understood deeply just how true that statement was. I was suddenly surrounded by surrogate moms who helped me navigate a difficult cancer diagnosis as a young woman and all the intricate details in between.
What do you wish people knew about cancer survivors?
The journey is different for all of us.
Why did you decide to settle in Dayton?
My mom and dad are originally from Dayton. My Dad, Jake Wells, is a local small business owner (JW's Wine Cellar in Trotwood) As a young professional, the community is rich in culture and a great place to raise a family.
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What do you love about life in Dayton?
The community. We've had a few tough spots in the past year and the community has rallied and supported one another in ways I could have never imagined. We truly live in one of the most giving communities in the world. It was truly on display when I saw so many reach out and help families in my husband Adam's school district after the tornadoes. Adam is a computer science teacher at Northridge Local Schools.
What would you do on a perfect date in Dayton?
My husband and I love baseball. Our perfect date would be going to a Dayton Dragons game.
Where do you go for a great time?
There are so many neat spots in and around the city. My husband and I love to go kayaking during the summer.
What would you change about Dayton?
I would love to see more businesses and restaurants downtown.
What should people know about Daytonians?
We are a resilient and giving bunch.
What do you think Dayton will look like in 10-15 years?
Thriving with exponential growth in business and enterprise. There are so many brilliant minds in the city with a vested interest in seeing Dayton grow and thrive.