NIU rallies behind a loved worker who defeated cancer


In the forth quarter of the women’s basketball game Friday at the convocation center, a group of New Hall residents present Barb Meredith with flowers and a vase.

By Clarissa Hinshaw

DeKALB — During her breast cancer battle, Barb Meredith, New Residence Hall cashier, was constantly warmed by the unending support of the students she helps every week.

Meredith has been working at NIU for 22 years — 14 of those years have been in campus dining. She was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2013, after which she received 16 chemotherapy treatments and radiation. Meredith became cancer-free in May 2014.

Meredith said she maintained a positive attitude during the treatments and worked most of her shifts at NIU during her tiring battle. She said she is amazed by the amount of support she has received from students with whom she has established close, authentic relationships by remembering their names and greeting them with a smile.

“The [students] were always asking me why I work so much, because they would see me everyday,” Meredith said. “[I said,] ‘Well, I’ve got a lot of medical bills to pay.’ I had no idea about the GoFundMe page.”

Freshman business major Amy Claps put together a GoFundMe page in December to help Meredith pay for her growing pile of medical bills. Claps found out about Meredith’s situation after talking to her last semester.

“[I got to know her] in the first couple weeks [of school],” Claps said. “I was going through a lot… She was always just making my day. I would walk in, and I could rely on her positivity — knowing my name, saying hi to me, asking me how I’m doing… just very genuine.”

Claps said she connected with Meredith’s story because she has relatives with breast cancer, so she wanted to help.

Meredith found out about the GoFundMe page, which has raised $1,330 of the $5,000 goal as of Sunday evening, this weekend when she was honored Saturday in the “NIU Faculty Spotlight” at the women’s basketball game alongside Claps. Those honored by the spotlight are chosen by student-athletes through Student Athlete Academic Success Services.

“Barb is a recent breast cancer survivor with a ray of positivity,” read the announcement made at the game. “She has made a lasting impression on many of our student-athletes and student organizations across campus. Unknowingly to Barb, the NIU student body was banding together on her behalf.”

At the game, Meredith was presented with a floral bouquet and handwritten notes from more than 800 students, said Michelle Nelson, a staff member selling T-shirts at the game.

“Barb Meredith was chosen by two basketball players: [freshman forward] Noah McCarty from the men’s [basketball] team and [freshman forward] Abby Woollacott from the women’s [basketball team],” Nelson said. “After being chosen, we found out she was a recent breast cancer survivor, and many student organizations were fundraising on her behalf.”

Nelson said a student intern in the athletics department who is a member of the Lambda Sigma Honors Society also put together a fundraiser called “Roses for Barb,” in which roses are sold to help raise money for Meredith’s medical bills.

Barb’s daughter Samantha Meredith said it was hard to watch her mother go through the treatments, though the support she has received has been incredible. Samantha said she has seen many supportive posts on social media from students.

“I want to thank everybody,” Samantha said. “To know that she has the support from all of them is incredible. From her daughter’s standpoint, it’s awesome to know that my mom is making such an impact on people.”