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Jeanna Richelson

Ceremonies itinerary

• Monday: Recipients of community Jefferson Awards dined together and shared their stories with one another.

• Today The Jefferson Awards will honor service by professional athletes, volunteers under 35, students, advocates of the disadvantaged and public officials. The Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Awards, for which Richelson is eligible, will be given to five of the nearly 125 community volunteers.

• Wednesday: Honorees will meet with their congressmen, and Richelson will meet Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.

Sources: Jefferson Awards, Jeanna Richelson

The founder of a local support group for people with rare cancers is visiting Washington, D.C., this week to represent the area in the national Jefferson Awards ceremonies.

Jeanna Richelson will be honored for her service and will be in the running with about 125 other volunteers from around the country for five Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis Awards, given to everyday people who perform extraordinary volunteer work in their communities.

"Our nation's greatness is derived in large measure from its goodness -- from the largely unheralded yet noble Americans whose commitment to helping others embodies the founding ideals of our democracy," said Jefferson Awards President Sam Beard in a news release.

Winners are chosen by a board of national leaders including baseball star Hank Aaron, actress Whoopi Goldberg and former first lady Laura Bush.

Richelson, who was diagnosed with tongue cancer in 2002, founded the Chattanooga Chapter of Support for People with Oral and Head and Neck Cancer.

On Monday, she said that since being nominated for a local Jefferson Award in February, her group has continued to grow as recently diagnosed people reach out for support. At the same time, members have grieved the loss of two of their own to cancers, she said.

"It's amazing just to be with these people who know what you're going through every day of your life," Richelson said.

Contact staff writer Steve Hardy at 423-757-6476 or