Milwaukee Teen Raises Esther STRONG Funds for Stepmom and NET Research

Sixteen-year-old Haillie Koetter, Milwaukee, WI, was a busy high school sophomore maintaining honor-roll-level academics, playing junior varsity volleyball, and working part-time after school. And then she added neuroendocrine tumor research fundraising to her activities…

In October 2017, Haillie’s stepmother, Esther— who hadn’t been feeling well—was having a lot of doctor appointments and tests. The 37-year-old mother of two and stepmother to Haillie was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer (pNET). Esther and Haillie’s dad Nick live in San Diego, where Nick is a Navy pilot.

Given the distance, with Haillie’s school schedule and activities in Milwaukee—and her stepmother in California—Haillie wanted to find a way to help.

Haillie made plans to raise awareness about this “unheard-of-cancer,” pNET. She set up a Go Fund Me page with a goal of raising $1,000 for her stepmother’s medical expenses.
Haillie and her father purchased ‘Esther STRONG’ bracelets to send to every donor along with a personal, handwritten thank-you letter. Over the next several weeks the Esther STRONG fundraiser took off, surpassing Haillie’s $1,000 goal and raising more than $12,000. With the additional proceeds, Haillie gave donors the choice of supporting Esther’s medical expenses or scientific research through the Neuroendocrine Tumor Research Foundation.

Haillie’s mom, Nicole Richter, explains how moving the experience has been. “This has been such an eye-opening, humbling experience for the entire family. It’s difficult that Esther, Nick, and their family are going through their cancer experience in California.”

Haillie plans to spend her Christmas break in San Diego to be with her Dad and Esther. She says she is looking forward to the warm temperatures and many days of family time.

Hallie is also focused on going to college and becoming a veterinarian. Haillie believes that “If I can make a difference in funding NET research then hopefully others can too and a cure will be found soon.”  Thank you, Haillie!

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Good luck Haillie!


What an amazing story! Way to go Haillie


I am so proud of haillie she sets her mind to something and always finishes it. She was was born a old soul wise beyond her age. She gives me hope that our future will be brighter beacuse she is in this world. Kathy Caldwell ( 1 proud nana )


Our oldest granddaughter Haillie. So very proud of her. She is truly amazing with an incredibly big heart. Love her very much


You are so amazing! I’ve lost 2 friend in 2 years from this disease and believe in my heart your efforts will make a difference. Keep believing!

Coach Freitag

Haillie……this is awesome. In todays world there are too few stories like this so thank you for your efforts. You are part of what is still so right with this world and you should feel wonderful about what you have accomplished.


You are wonderful Hallie! I was diagnosed on 3/2/06, at the age of 36. I had been sick for years, begging doctors for help. They gave me 5 yrs. I hadon’t a tumor in my small intestines, lymph nodes and 28 on my liver. But I wasn’t going to give up! I had an eleven yr old son depending on me. I joined a trial at Dana Farber Cancer Center in Boston. I had chemo every other week for 3 1/2 yrs. I also had surgery to remove tumor in small intestines and radio frequency ablation to remove 25 of… Read more »

Patricia Rust Oriseh

So touching! I am praying hard for Esther, Nick, and all their children. Good work Haillie. What a difference one small action can make!

Tabby Lockwood

Hallie this is such a wonderful gift you could give to your step Mom. The love and compassion you show for a 16 year old girl is truly amazing! I am an oncology nurse and see people go through this alone sometimes, and I know that with all that you have done your step Mom is so proud of you and probably can’t express how much you mean to her.