S.O.A.R. Scholarship: Striving Horticulturist Beats Cancer

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Outdoors and in the dirt is exactly where Tanner Dell loves to be.

"I've been working here for two years now - working outside, working with plants just sparked an interest," he said.

That interest is growing thanks to Tanner's job at the Bickelhaupt Arboretum in Clinton, Iowa. That's where the Northeast High School Senior is learning hands-on, which is something that probably didn't seem possible a few years ago.

"In October 2011, I had surgery on my knee and they removed a tumor and later found out it was cancerous," Tanner explained.

He was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a type of bone cancer that typically occurs in children and young adults.

"It's weird," he said. "I mean, I was a perfectly healthy 14-year-old boy. It's just different knowing that what happened to you could happen to anybody."

Six months of chemo and four years later, Tanner is cancer-free with a new outlook on life.

"It's definitely made me a better person," he explained. "I've been seeing a lot of good in people as far as the community helping me out a lot then."

Ever since, he's been giving back by sharing his story with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, volunteering at Relay for Life, and even shaving his head for St. Baldrick's.

It's why WQAD News 8 is giving Tanner a S.O.A.R. Scholarship, with the help of The Sedona Group.

Tanner is heading to Iowa State University for one of the best Horticulture programs in the country. His emphasis will be Public Gardens Management, much like the one he works at right now.

The S.O.A.R. Scholarship is all about a student's Strength, Optimism, Achievements, and Resolve. The $1,000 scholarship is awarded to five area high school seniors every year.