A couple of years ago, back in 2008, I had a student that caught my heart. He was small, but he was also strong and courageous. He was in pain, but he still smiled and never complained. He was a hard worker, even though he was tired all the time. A lot of the time he was sick, but he still stayed happy. He was absent a lot, but he was there in my prayers. He lost his hair, but he was still so handsome! You see, he had Leukemia. Leukemia was trying to take his life. I don't think I've ever prayed so hard for a student in all the years that I have taught. I wanted to will him to live. I was determined to do something to help in some way.
As I learned to watch for the signs that his medicine was working, I also scrambled to keep his stomach full and his body hydrated so that he would have the energy to fight. I knew that the sicker he was, the less strength the Leukemia had over him. But, it was hard, watching him day after day as he got weaker and weaker. I had to remind myself that in his case, weak was good. It meant the bad cells were dying and were getting ready to be replaced with the good cells.
The winter was especially hard on him. I began to shuffle the seating arrangement around so that the healthiest students sat near him...a cold could have put him into the hospital. As a child would come in with sniffles or a cough, the seating assignment would change again.
As spring came and the end of the school year came closer, he began to miss more school. The oral chemotherapy that the doctors were using were taking their toll. But he continued to fight. On the last day of school, I gave him a huge hug, a bag of snacks to munch on and to fight the nausea, and I waved goodbye as the bus pulled out. That was the last time I saw him. That summer, his mom, overwhelmed with his sickness and her three other children, decided to move closer to her family.
I'm not sure what happened to him. I have tried to find him, but haven't been successful. I hope....pray....that he out in the world, still smiling.
Needless to say, teaching this student changed me as a teacher, and as a person. It made me much more aware of the fragility of life. It made me want to do something, but I wasn't sure what needed to be done.
One Sunday in church, I again prayed for him--I hadn't stopped even though I didn't know where he was. I wanted so badly to be able to do something that would make a difference for him, or another child with the same problem. As we stood for the benediction, I saw a note sticking out of a friend's Bible. It said, "snacks needed at the oncology dept at the children's hospital." It was like a light bulb went off....SNACKS! Why hadn't I thought of that. The snacks were what helped my little guy keep the strength to fight off the Leukemia.
As our leadership team met at my school before the beginning of the new school year, I suggested that we hold a snack drive for our oncology department. I offered to handle the planning and transporting of the snacks, and throw in a pizza party for the class that donated the most snacks. The only month that wasn't jam-packed with programs and testing was February. A co-worker suggested that we call it 'Cupids for Cancer'. It was then that our snack drive was born!
In 2011 we delivered over 1,200 individually wrapped snacks to our children's hospital. We carried in bag after bag and box after box. The hospital administrators just stood there in awe as the food piled up. They thanked us immensely for the donation and assured us that the kids receiving radiation and chemotherapy would love them! In 2012, we donated 1,800 snacks.
This year, my goal is to hit 2,000 snacks. I challenge you to join us in the fight against cancer and sponsor 'Cupids for Cancer' at you school. If you do, be sure to let me know how it goes and how many snacks are donated! I wish you luck!
***This is for you, Little Guy, wherever you are! My prayers are with you.***