UNION, NJ - Nicholas Tarabokia, a Berkeley Heights eighth-grader, was recently honored  for his efforts to improve the quality of life for children and their families affected by cancer through advocacy, charity, and support.

At age six, three years into a diagnosis of leukemia, he wrote down the words “cancer stinks.” At age 8, he turned those words into a mission to help other children overcome their anxieties and fears while they battle the disease, and with the help of his brother Ryan and his family, he founded the Cancer Stinks Children’s Foundation, which has delivered more than 5,000 care packages in its six years of operation. 

"We are so proud of our students in Berkeley Heights, and he is an example of 

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Tarabokia along with seven other individuals and five organizations received a Union County Human Relations Commission Unity Award for Achievement, an honor annually bestowed upon those who dedicate their time and efforts toward volunteerism and philanthropy in Union County, during a special presentation held Monday, May 8 at the Kean University STEM Building in Union Township.

Tarabokia thanked his family for being by his side through his cancer journey that Cancer Stinks is part of. "They stuck with me the whole way," he said. He also thanked his younger brother Ryan. "He has been by my side since day one. To this day, he still knows how to put a smile on my face. He is the best brother in the world. Through every package packed, delivery, you name it, he has been right by my side. I would do anything for you bro," Tarabokia as as he beamed towards his brother.

"When I heard I got recognized for this award, I kept wondering to myself --'What would my life be if I never had cancer? Would I be here today? --- I came to a conclusion that I was meant to be put into this position, I was meant to go through this negative event in my life and I was meant to turn in something so positive that came out be Cancer Stinks. Now this award just proves to me that," said Tarabokia.

Also receiving an award was Imagine: A Center for Coping with Loss, received a Unity Award for its efforts dedicated toward the strong belief that no child should have to grieve alone. The Center provides free, year-round bereavement support in a safe environment for grieving children, teens, adults, and families who are coping with loss, providing them with the opportunity to become part of a larger support system and make lifelong friends. Director Mary Robinson accepted the Award on behalf of the Center, which recently moved to Mountainside from its original Westfield location so it can expand its services to more children and families.

The 2017 awards marked the 16th year in which the Commission has named Unity Award honorees. 

“This annual award recognizes programs, services, activities, and efforts being put forth by local role models who promote cultural diversity, strong community relations, and human rights,” Commission Co-Chair Nora Mislan said. “Those who are nominated for this award are regular people who do extraordinary things. Their efforts make others’ lives better.”

“Our commissioners unequivocally agree that one of the best ways to strive to accomplish our mission – to actively encourage, develop, promote, and strengthen respect for human rights and cultural diversity among the people of Union County – is to publicly honor those who already do it well,” said the Commission’s other co-chair, Union County Prosecutor’s Office Director of Communications Mark Spivey. “Monday’s presentation was intended to highlight the extraordinary work being done by those who don’t think twice about giving back to their communities, and we are pleased that they are at least getting a fraction of the recognition and thanks they deserve.”  

For more information about the Human Relations Commission and the Unity Awards, go online to www.ucnj.org/uchrc.