Scholarship Meets Three Times the Need for Triplets Affected by Cancer


Two families who experienced firsthand how cancer can come into their lives and turn everything upside down managed to find each other through Frostburg State University. As one family found a way to channel their grief through doing good, they helped another family’s children achieve their educational goals.


Matthew ’21, Dylan ’21 and Seth ’21 Mannick tragically experienced their loss at a young age. Their father, Mike, passed away from leukemia when the boys were only 8 years old. The triplets had to grow up quickly and band together for their mother Vanessa’s sake. But then life dealt them another sudden and crushing blow.

“In 2014, my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. This was hard for me and my family,” said Dylan, who majored in chemistry and is now in FSU’s Master of Arts in Teaching program. “She is my hero and the strongest person I know.”

Mannick triplets with mom pose at commencement
Scholarship recipients the Mannick triplets, from left, Seth ’21, Dylan ’21 and Matthew ’21, at graduation with their mother, Vanessa, a cancer survivor.

While their mother received treatment, the young men from Hagerstown were facing their college years. All three chose to attend FSU, but finances remained strained. “My mother was always on her feet, either working or helping my brothers and me or doing things around the house,” added Matthew. “It made me appreciate how much my mom had done for me.”

Financing a college education can be a strain on any family, let alone paying for three children at once, so the triplets looked to FSU’s Financial Aid Office for assistance.

Enter the support of the Kelly D. Heflin Foundation (KDHF), an organization created to uphold the legacy of Frostburg graduate Kelly Dressler Heflin ’89, who passed away from synovial cell sarcoma in 2011. Her husband, Greg, and her sister, Sheri Dressler Page ’83, established a scholarship at FSU to assist students affected by cancer.

Applicants must submit an essay of 500 words or more on the subject “How Cancer Has Touched My Life.”

“We get these stories. It’s very hard to relive these things that are very close to your own story,” said Greg, who works as a real estate developer in the Philadelphia area.

Kelly Dressler Heflin

Greg and Sheri, along with KDHF board member Lisa McGinnity, review all the applicants for the Frostburg scholarship. Matthew, Dylan and Seth applied individually. Since they are blind submissions, the adjudicators had no idea the students were triplets, but each of them ended up choosing all three of the Mannick brothers for the award.

“Of course, we had no idea they were related when we read the essays and made the selections,” Sheri said.

Greg added, “All three of the stories were the same. They had lost their father and their mother was battling cancer.”

“All three of the stories were the same. They had lost their father and their mother was battling cancer.”

Helping the Mannick triplets somehow seemed like a natural fit for a scholarship created in Kelly’s memory. Sheri said she and Kelly grew up in a “Brady Bunch” home. Like Matthew, Dylan and Seth, Sheri and Kelly lost their father at a young age (Sheri was 8 and Kelly was 2). Their mother remarried and created a big, blended family in Olney, Md.

Sheri and Greg are pleased that Kelly’s legacy lives on in helping students, like the Mannick triplets, fulfill their educational dreams at FSU.

“Kelly absolutely loved everything about Frostburg,” Sheri said of her sister, who decided to attend FSU after visiting her big sister during a Parent’s Weekend. “[Kelly] told my parents on the way home that she wanted to go to Frostburg. She never even looked at any other schools.”

According to Greg, most of the support for KDHF comes from an annual golf tournament. The foundation has generously supported programs at Johns Hopkins

Hospital and the Joan Karnell Cancer Center at Penn Medicine where Kelly received her treatments, among other worthy causes.

However, the Mannick brothers’ triple financial need challenged Greg to rethink the board’s support of the FSU scholarship.

“We were blown away by the depth of their need. Whatever makes their lives easier, we wanted to help,” he said. “We can help people and do it through Kelly.”

What was a one-time award at FSU was expanded to automatic annual renewal for recipients, as long as the students are enrolled and in good academic standing.

“We wanted to make sure all three of them got through,” Greg added. “These are our kids.”

That kind of loving support reflects Kelly’s giving spirit.

“Kelly was the most passionate, brave and caring person I have ever known,” her sister Sheri added. “Whenever I am facing adversity or a crisis, I find myself asking ‘WWKD’ – what would Kelly do?”

Heflin with mother and friend at bike race
From left, Kelly Heflin, Sheri Dressler Page ’83, her sister, and their mother Ann Lane.

Heflin with best friend
FSU best friends Valerie Rivers Harwood ’89, left, and Kelly Heflin.

Greg Heflin, Kelly’s husband, and Sheri Dressler joined three current scholarship recipients on campus at a Relay For Life event.

And Kelly would have wanted these students affected by cancer not to stress about how they are going to take care of their finances, Greg pointed out. “It’s something they don’t have to worry about. We want to help students transition from survivor to driver.”

“It’s something they don’t have to worry about. We want to help students transition from survivor to driver.”

One of those survivors is Matthew, Dylan and Seth’s mother, Vanessa. After receiving treatment, the triplet’s mom is now cancer-free. She celebrated at her sons’ graduation last spring, watching all three young men walk across the stage and receive their diplomas.

“My mother overcame the battle. … She is back to herself and enjoying life,” explained Matthew who is pursuing his doctorate in physical therapy at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. “This [experience] has shaped me into who I am today in becoming a physical therapist.”

Brother Dylan continued, “Cancer has taught me to always stay positive through life. You shouldn’t complain. Life can come at you quick, and you shouldn’t take it for granted. You should always be thankful for what you have.”

And the triplets are thankful for the Dressler-Heflin family and their support. “I don’t know if they know how much it means to me and my family being awarded the scholarship for three years,” Matthew said.

They know – and so does Kelly.

“I am certain Kelly is smiling down and so pleased and blessed that she is able to help,” big sister Sheri added. “That is the kind of person she was – always caring about others.”


To make a gift in support of the Kelly Dressler Heflin Foundation Scholarship, call the FSU Foundation at 301-687- 4068 or visit online at www.frostburg.edu/foundation.