Pennies Go a Long Way: Students Taking Steps for Cancer Research
West Pine Elementary School students learned that a penny’s worth of pledges can go a long way toward helping those in need.
About 570 students took part last Thursday in “A Penny A Step,” the first day of a five-day Relay for Life fundraiser.
The students are raising money for Relay by walking a specified route on the school campus. The event resumes Monday and continues through Wednesday.
“Today, West Pine Elementary became the first school in the country to take part in the Pennies program,” said Relay for Life volunteer Pat Henry. “This is huge.”
The event was put together by Henry and Stephanie Monroe, a second-grade teacher at West Pine.
“Last year Pat told us how he envisioned the event developing, and we met and discussed what we could do,” said Monroe, a three-year Relay volunteer and captain of the West Pine Elementary Wildlife Cubs Relay team. “The event has come together well and we already consider it a success with $1,700 pledged so far. We will definitely turn this into a yearly event.”
The distance walked depends upon the amount of money each child was pledged. Prior to the event, students took home applications and were asked to obtain sponsors. Pledge levels include $2 per 200 steps, $5 for 500 steps and $10 for 1,000 steps. Those who pledged to walk 2,000 steps received a $20 pledge, and are entitled to dedicate a luminaria in memory or honor of a loved one. Students wear a pedometer to record their number of steps taken during his or her walk.
The fundraiser is dedicated to cancer survivor Cathie Ward, a West Pine exceptional education teacher who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004. Ward helped kick off Thursday’s event by walking with a class of kindergarteners and first-graders who gathered in the school gymnasium. Older students walked at different times of the day.
“I feel like a celebrity today,” Ward said. “Having cancer is a terrible thing, but seeing these kids walking in front of me today, and knowing they are behind me all the way in a supportive sense, has made all the difference. It’s very nice that the Relay people put this together.”
Monroe complimented Ward on her strength and positive attitude.
“Cathie is a real role model, not only for the teachers but for the children too,” Monroe said. “She’s a real trouper, and always has a smile on her face.”
Six-year old Cody Lowder was one of those who walked with Ward.
“Walking was fun,” he said. “I want to do it again next year.”
Lowder walked 1,798 steps and raised $80 for Relay.
Fifth-grader Boone Hancock pledged 1,000 steps “but ended up walking a lot more.”
“I finished with 2,233 steps,” he said. “I’m a little tired, but a lot of people have cancer, so it’s a good cause to make donations to help them. I’ll do it again next year.”
Physical education teacher Elizabeth Gingerich plans to walk with every group, every day during the five-day fundraiser.
“I had a great time walking with the kids today, and I am looking forward to joining the rest of the students when they walk next week,” Gingerich said. “I’ll probably have 100,000 steps by then,” she added, laughing.
Amy Albert, South Atlantic division community manager for the American Cancer Society, was on the West Pine campus to support the fundraiser.
“‘A Penny a Step’ is great because it provides two learning opportunities for these children,” Albert said. “They learn the importance of doing for others -— in this case raising money to go to research and services for cancer patients — and they are also exposed to the idea that exercise and prevention are important ways to stay healthy. They get the message that it’s all about preventing cancer, and if you have it, then it’s about getting better.”
Henry encourages everyone to get involved in supporting Relay for Life.
“I think ‘A Penny a Step’ provides a great way for the community to help those suffering from cancer or to honor those who have passed on,” Henry said. “I encourage everyone to go online and make a donation or join a team. There are many ways to participate.”
To become a sponsor for “A Penny A Step,” visit www.relayforlife.org/moore or send a check to West Pine Elementary School. The check should be made out to the American Cancer Society with “A Penny a Step” in the memo field. If one chooses to sponsor a certain child, include that name in the memo field as well.
Other ways to participate in the event include volunteering to be a captain and forming a team, signing up to be a part of an existing team or donating online. Visit the Relay website for more information.
The 2012 Moore County Relay for Life will be held on April 21-22 at Sandhills Community College.
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