Walking for a cure
Pallavi Agarwal | Highlands TodaySEBRING - Paola Morales tried to choke back tears as she talked about her mother's battle with colon cancer.
Published: December 20, 2012
Published: December 20, 2012
The Sebring Middle School eight-grader remembers how terrified and helpless she felt when her mom broke the news two to three months ago.
The following day, she was scheduled for surgery and is undergoing chemotherapy in Tampa.
Wednesday, Paola was one of many Sebring Middle students walking the school track to help find a cure.
Five years ago, the school formed a Relay For Life team and came up with the idea of letting students walk the track for a $1 each.
Now, what's become an all-day event for some students has grown as the school team's biggest fundraiser, said guidance counselor Donna Foster.
Paola started walking when school started Wednesday and intended to walk all day until school let out for early release.
"I'm doing this so they find a cure for cancer," she said, sweat beads lining her forehead.
She wasn't going to let the heat dissuade her.
"I hate cancer completely," she said simply.
Foster said the annual event not only lets students express solidarity with a relative or friend who is fighting the disease, but also gives the kids the feeling they have the power to do something.
"It brings them all together for a common cause," she said.
Paola was not the only student directly affected by cancer this year.
A Sebring Middle seventh-grader also has a mother who is fighting cancer, and a sixth-grade student has a 5-year-old brother who has leukemia.
Some of the students were walking in memory of Lindsey Hammortree, a former Sebring Middle student and a Sebring High School graduate, who passed away at her home Dec. 10 after a long fight with cancer. She was 18.
Others were walking in solidarity of those who had fought cancer and survived.
"This lets you fight back and hopefully celebrate," Foster said. "Not everybody loses the battle."
Since its inception, the fundraiser has grown to be a school-wide effort.
Teachers pay out of their pockets to let their classes walk. They also pay for the candy, the water and the face-painting, which is sold and helps the team collect more money.
The school team's goal this year is $3,500. Two years ago they raised $5,000 and $4,000 last year but decided to scale back because of the economy.
Teachers also man the concession stands during the football and basketball games, and the proceeds go into the Relay for Life kitty.
Wednesday morning, a whole swarm of students were walking the walk while a Pitbull song blared from one speaker and kids lined up to get sno-cones from the "Kona Ice cream man," who donates a quarter of what he makes to the school.
Seventh-grader Elise Chaisson was walking the track for her fourth-period because it's fun and also because it supports a good cause, she said.
firstname.lastname@example.org (863) 386-5831