>Taylor Lawrence’s face lit up when she hit Middle School at Parkside Principal William Patterson in the face with a shaving cream pie Friday morning, but it wasn’t just because she had made the head honcho look silly in front of her friends.
It also was because the seventh-grader was in the process of helping stomp out cancer.
At the first Mini Relay for Life at Parkside — part of a larger countywide school initiative that began last year — hundreds of students were walking around the track while reveling in throwing water balloons at friends and teachers and dancing to music spun by a local DJ.
Students paid 50 cents per balloon or plate full of shaving cream as a final opportunity to raise money for American Cancer Society research, education and prevention in the Great Lakes region.
“I didn’t really know much about (cancer) until now, so it’s been a good learning experience,” Taylor said. “I asked a lot of my family members for money. Some of them have had cancer, so they were really supportive about donating because they know how much it impacts lives.”
Last year, schools such as Frost and Dibble elementary schools and others raised almost $10,000 through Mini Relay for Life events, said Josie Gauthier, a seventh-grade English teacher at Parkside.
Friday was particularly moving for Gauthier because she is a survivor of breast cancer.
Diagnosed in October 2006, she has used her fight as a way to inform and inspire students.
“I made PowerPoints and I took my camera into the operating room when they were inserting into my pores and when I was having (chemotherapy) so I could educate them,” Gauthier said. “My main focus was to say that because of cancer research people live, people survive, people go on. And my kids needed that back then because they would cry and they would call me up on the phone.”
Seventh-grader Olivia York, one of Gauthier’s students, said her teacher’s testimony has been transformational.
“This has all been a really powerful experience, and it was great to hear her story,” Olivia said. “She was gone a long time and to see all the things she’s been through and knowing it was rough for her … she’s very strong.”
Gauthier said the event is “teacher led, but student driven.”
“We have so many students who think twice at the lunch line about buying that bag of chips and they’ll put (that money) in the Relay buckets. They just really get psyched about helping,” she said.
She said the countywide Relay for Life event in August is expected to raise as much as $275,000 for the American Cancer Society.
As published in the Jackson Citizen Patriot on June 5, 2011