When two local teachers’ lives were recently changed forever by cancer, their school, Plain View Elementary, rallied behind them with a home-grown fundraiser and showed them that no one fights the battle alone.
Retha House, the computer lab facilitator at Plain View Elementary, lost her 27-year-old daughter, Ashley House Barefoot, to neuroblastoma just this past year in October.
Also, this past January, fifth grade teacher Cynthia Lee visited the doctor about a suspicious looking spot on her skin. In just two days, she was diagnosed with melanoma, and within a week, she was undergoing surgery to have it removed.
As these two teachers tried to wrap their minds around what cancer had suddenly done to their lives, the mind of Beth Best, Plain View Elementary’s physical education teacher and the school’s teacher of the year, was hard a work organizing a unique fundraiser to show support for these beloved teachers.
Best created the “No One Fights Alone” fundraiser to help fund brain and melanoma cancer research in the hopes of one day finding a cure.
“Beth organized this thing from the ground up,” noted Plain View Elementary principal Gaynor Hammond. “She did all the research, designed the paperwork, designed the T-shirts, everything.”
Once Best got the ball rolling, the school took it from there and ran with the idea. Initially hoping to collect $6,000, the school ended up raising double that amount.
The money raised, which totaled $12, 279.53, will be divided between two cancer research facilities. Duke Medical Center’s Brain Cancer Center program “Angels Among Us” will receive around $4,525 in memory of House’s daughter, and the UNC Cancer Center will receive a check for the same amount in honor of Lee, specifically for melanoma research.
Appropriately, before sending the money to the facilities where it will put to good use, the school presented the checks to House and Lee.
“It’s awesome,” said House as she attempted to find the words to express her gratitude for the school’s support. “When they first approached me about this, I was blown away. The community has been so supportive. Plain View always steps up when you need them.”
Lee agreed, sharing that the school and community “were there immediately” to support her and have truly shown her that “no one has to go through anything alone.”
The Plain View Elementary students’ response has been especially touching.
“The students’ support has been wonderful,” noted Lee. “They wear their “No One Fights Alone” T-shirts all the time and you can tell they are proud of what they’ve done. They understand what they’ve done to help and it has given them this sense of purpose.”
As part of the fundraiser, two large ribbons, one purple and one black, were cut out and hung on the wall in the school’s gym. Names cover both ribbons from top to bottom.
“Students wrote the names of people they know whose lives have been affected by cancer on the black ribbon,” explained Best, pointing out where one student had simply wrote “Mom.”
“On the purple ribbon, the students wrote their own names because they were brave and courageous enough to raise money to support cancer research,” Best added.
“The kids did it. We were just the foundation for them to stand on to do it,” continued Best, sharing that students brought in their piggy bank money and saved their ice cream money in order to donate all they could to cancer research.
The school’s top fundraisers were fifth grader John Robert McLamb, third grader Warren Naylor, kindergartener Landon Hammond, first grader Cayla Lee, and fifth grader Nicholas Lee. These students raised anywhere from $160 to $500 individually.
“I wanted to raised money for cancer research because I feel bad for people who have cancer,” said McLamb of his reason for participating in the fundraiser. “I want those people to have a chance at living longer.”
Acknowledging that organizing the event was indeed quite an undertaking, Best stressed that it was more than worth it.
“It came from a desire in my heart to help the community. It’s been an opportunity to be hands and feet in the community and to show them that we are not just learning our numbers and all here. We are also learning to live with our hearts as well,” explained Best. “You know, our motto is that we are inspiring 21st century learners, but we are also creating 21st century adults and it’s important that they have a passion for people.”
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.