If two things run in Olivia Kerins' family, it's volunteerism and a nursing degree.
"I am one of over 20 nurses in my family," said the full-time nurse, entering her rookie season with the New England Patriots Cheerleaders.
"You're very safe in our house, we like to say. There's a lot of us."
Together, her parents own and operate Nursing On Demand, a nursing concierge company. Her brother and his soon-to-be wife are nurses, as are a handful of aunts and cousins. Growing up in Belmont, her weekends were spent giving back with her mother, and even before she dreamed of joining the cheerleading squad, she recalls something her father would often say.
"I don't want to say it's coincidental, but growing up, my dad always said that the Kraft family was the gold standard for volunteerism. It just feels right at this point, to be part of the Patriots organization, because that's always been a motto in our house."
Joining the squad was years in the making, though.
Olivia had tried three times before ultimately making the roster. Along the way, she graduated from nursing school, found an interest in oncology and skin cancer prevention, and opened up a philanthropy and fundraising branch of her family business.
In her fourth time trying out for the Cheerleading squad, the audition process featured a new component – a small sign from the universe that this was her time.
"This was my fourth season trying out, and through the years, things have changed a little bit," Olivia said. "The biggest change this year was that we had to write a philanthropy paper about our mission for the season. For me, this couldn't have been more perfect. It felt like the stars were aligning. I'm working so hard on skin cancer prevention and did a lot of research to see how I could tie this in with the Patriots. Mr. Kraft and the Patriots Foundation do so much to get involved with cancer prevention and celebrate survivors. For me, it just made so much sense. It felt like the perfect time and it all worked out this year."
Nursing was a natural path for Olivia to pursue, given influences from family and the biotech hub that is the Greater Boston Area.
She initially pursued oncology, with various types of cancer having impacted her loved ones, but a gap in care made her realize the niche she wanted to get into.
"As I started working in oncology I noticed such a lack of resources in skin cancer prevention, especially here in New England," Olivia said. "People don't think they need to put on sunblock when it's snowing outside. So there was a hole – a lot of gaps that I felt needed filling."
Over time, she realized how underfunded research was in skin cancer, and sympathized with those who simply can't afford their medical care after a life-altering diagnosis.
"The last thing you want to worry about when you get a diagnosis is money, and I think my goal was to try to identify the issue before it's an issue and teach about how to prevent skin cancer altogether," Olivia said. "A small mole, in a few years, might develop into something tragic. Being able to identify it early on and find someone the resources they need is important."
Fortunately, Olivia already had a platform she knew could help make a difference.
She brought the idea to open up a philanthropy branch within Nursing In Demand. The idea was to call it Nurses on the Surface, and through community outreach, partnerships, and activations, she could fundraise, educate, and work with like-minded organizations to help her community.
"My mom couldn't have been more excited," Olivia said. "She thought it was a great idea. She loves being involved in it as well because it was something we were doing anyway. We were always looking for places to volunteer whether it's with our business or just handing out food, we were always looking for those opportunities around our community. She was excited and proud and I think happy I still had this interest as an adult."
Two years later, she's achieved another prominent platform to spread his message.
Within the Patriots Cheerleading squad are men and women passionate about making a difference, each invested in their own causes out in the community. That mentality is infectious and only motivates her more.
"I think any setting, like when you're around like-minded people who support you and have their own goals and passions that you can support as well, it's just built for success," Olivia said.
"I hope to be a really strong voice for skin cancer prevention, and really, all forms of cancer prevention. Just using my background and knowledge as a nurse to elevate the organization, I want to show ways people can support and be active in the community for those things, whether they're a nurse or not."