Wright On: 11-year-old Stickley doing her part 1 mile at a time

  • Nova Stickley

A young girl in Papaikou has been using her heart and legs to attract others, providing vital help for oppressed children around the world. In a few paragraphs you’ll read about her efforts and her successes, which may inspire you to help in her causes.

First though, for the sake of perspective, it’s worth mentioning that 11 year-old Nova Stickley, a sincere trailblazer for youthful runners on the Big Island, is not the first young girl to accomplish amazing things for others, but she surely falls in a long line of girls around the world who have helped change the world, for the better.


Most of us are familiar with Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist who promotes education and learning for girls, and, yes, there are places on the planet where girls have been prohibited from being part of the educational system. Yousafzai was shot in the face, but not killed by a Taliban fighter who sought to silence her in 2012 when she was just 15. She survived the assassination attempt, has been on television generating attention for the cause and because of her efforts, life got better for uncounted thousands of young girls.

In 2004, Alexandra Scott died from a form of cancer which was diagnosed before her first birthday. By the time she was 4, she put up a lemonade stand in her front yard to raise money for childhood cancer, her story was mentioned locally, it got picked up by television news and in short time was spread around the globe.

Other girls got it, started their own lemonade stands and by the time Scott died, her cause had raised over $1 million. Her parents continued the crusade and still operate Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation (@AlexsLemonade), which now has global reach and is gaining more support on a daily basis.

Sometimes, keiki think they can do anything, and, as we have come to see, they are often right.

Nova Stickley is the daughter of Cris and Emilie Stickley, Cris a devoted long-distance runner who is the chair of the kinesiology department at the University of Hawaii-Manoa, Emilie, an obstetrician-gynecologist,on the Big Island.

At an even younger age, Nova would get up early and go along to watch when her dad ran 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons and marathons. She liked everything she saw.

“It was fun to watch, I was always interested in running myself,” she said last week, “but I had to wait until I was older.”

He father, fully aware of the issue with keiki running too far, too early in their lives, continually held her back until she was 6, when he permitted her to “run around the block,” from time-to-time, and as she grew he allowed her to add distance, gradually.

She ran her first 5K at an event on Oahu, but that wasn’t enough.

“I liked the idea of longer distance,” she said, “from the mental aspect of it. When I first tried it (in that initial 5K), it felt a whole lot different, but I had trained for it, worked up to it and it was so much fun, it was so exciting the whole rest of the day.

“The next day, ugh,” she said, grinning at the memory of muscle aches, “but after that, I wanted to go out again.”

On Sunday, she competed in her fourth half-marathon, as part of a team, in the XTERRA Trail Running World Championships at the Kuala Ranch on Oahu, inspired from a runner she saw in that first 5K years earlier.

A youthful, but older competitor had been running to raise funds for Compassion International, a 501 (c)(3), non-profit, religiously affiliated humanitarian global group that advocates for protecting children from all forms of abuse.

It made sense, if you’re going to do this, why not help out others?

Nova ran her first half-marathon at age 8 and raised money for the cause, helping sponsor three families. Her mother has relatives in Sri Lanka and after a visit, Nova decided to raise money for an orphanage there she had visited.

It worked, or, you could say, it paid off. She raised a little over $1,800, enough for the orphanage, in conjunction with a church that supported the children, to build a new playground for the keiki there.

When you ask her about that, her words don’t say as much as the smile that opened across her face at the mention of the playground.

“It’s pretty neat,” she said.

This year, Nova ran in the XTERRA for Manna House Rescue in Uganda, after hearing from a friend who grew up in Uganda about the number of children who were born with HIV/Aids and have little hope for productive lives.

Her goal was to raise at least $2,000, but as of the end of last week, the total had climbed past $3,500 for the support offered at yesuganda.org.

Nova Stickey is just getting started. She has raised thousands for underprivileged keiki around the world, but she plans on doing more.

“By the time I’m 13, I plan to run my first marathon,” she said, “sometime between 13 and 15 I want to do a 30-mile run and by 18, I want to enter my first half-ironman. At some point, I will be doing the Ironman, it’s definitely on my list.”

Her mother has realized she will need to set up some social media accounts to make a more direct connection with potential Big Island contributors, and, fingers crossed, perhaps people around the world will want to join in the effort.

If Nova’s story spreads, she hopes it will encourage other young girls to go out and help change the world, like she’s been doing.

“I just think if this is something you like, if you want to do some trail running, some distance running, if you have a passion for it, I hope they get involved.

“For me,” she said, “the idea that I could do something I love and at the same time, help others who really need it? I just thought that was neat, doing what you love and helping others.”


It’s the kind of thing that, history shows, has a way of catching on and that passion, expressed by young people, can change the world in ways small and large.

Send story ideas and comments to barttribuneherald@gmail.com

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