Love Bug contest finalist graduated from NIU

Amy Kreeger

DeKALB | An NIU alumna is one of three finalists in the 2010 Love Bug Contest.

The contest, sponsored by a Fox Valley Volkswagen dealership, is for people to get the chance to put their stories of struggles and self-sacrifice out there for people to hear. People throughout the country are allowed to vote for the person who they feel deserves the 2010 Volkswagen most.

Emir Abinion, the owner of Fox Valley Volkswagen dealership, 1000 E. Golf Rd., said the contest was originally created to celebrate the grand opening of the Schaumburg dealership, but has continued the contest because there was lots of good feedback from the public during the first contest last year. The contest’s website had over 3 million visitors and 50,000 people voted across all 50 states.

Stephanie Flood, a four-time brain cancer survivor and a 23-year-old NIU alumna as of Spring 2010, was nominated by her aunt, who knew about the contest from her neighbor and last year’s winner of the contest.

Stephanie was first diagnosed when she was 9 years old, and her mom became afraid for her daughter’s life.

“As a mother, you want to shield your kid from the world, when cancer hits you don’t have that opportunity,” said Stephanie’s mother, Ursula Flood. “You feel helpless.”

Going through this was very tough on her and her family, but they helped each other through the tough time, Ursula said.

Living in and out of hospitals on a daily basis with chemotherapy and radiation treatments, Stephanie is still dealing with the long-term effects the treatments have had on her.

“To graduate college is a testament to how hard she works,” Ursula said. “It’s quite an accomplishment.”

Throughout everything that has happened, Stephanie has been able to maintain a positive attitude.

“I like to make people laugh and to remind others to enjoy life,” Stephanie said. “Being a four-time cancer survivor instills adventure.”

Abinion said because people seemed to love the event so much last year, they had to continue it.

“We were trying to find a fun way to give back to people who help others and the dealership,” Abinion said. “After reading about all the stories and the positive response of the public, we had to do it again.”

There are a series of contests once a month for five months, and then the top three winners go into the final round to win the car.

“I was in the first round and was one of the top three who won,” Stephanie said. “I wanted to enter to give cancer survivors hope and a car to get around so I can get to my interviews.”

The winner of the contest will be announced Dec. 18 and her family said they have high hopes.

“There is only one car for the whole family,” Ursula said. “Winning the car would open doors for her.”

Abinion said he hopes to have the contest for years to come.

“We are looking to keep it for the future,” Abinion said.