No pie in the sky: CMS students don’t dodge childhood cancer cure fundraising efforts

By on February 17, 2016

 

When Cocalico Middle School students gather to dance, play dodgeball, and throw pie in their teachers’ faces later this month, they’ll likely raise more money for Penn State Hershey Children’s Hospital than many larger high schools.

They’re aiming to raise $30,000 at their 2016 mini-THON on February 26-nearly $10,000 more than students brought in last year.

Today, the school’s mini-THON runs like a well-oiled machine. Students create fun ways for their friends-and the community-to get involved in supporting the Four Diamonds Fund. The fund covers insurance gaps and connects cancer patients at Children’s Hospital and their families with therapeutic and supportive resources.

Last year, mini-THONs raised more than $4.3 million statewide.

Part of the reason the Cocalico Middle School’s initial efforts were so successful was because cancer was a disease the children and staff knew all too well.

Photo courtesy Danielle Corrao Discussing the upcoming Cocalico Middle School miniTHON are members of the T-shirt committee (from left) Jessica Townsley (back to camera),  Jaden Greco, Harleigh Reiner, Austin Landis, and Emma Reilly.  For more information on obtaining a T-shirt, email Townsley at jtownsley@cocalico.org.

Photo courtesy Danielle Corrao
Discussing the upcoming Cocalico Middle School miniTHON are members of the T-shirt committee (from left) Jessica Townsley (back to camera), Jaden Greco, Harleigh Reiner, Austin Landis, and Emma Reilly. For more information on obtaining a T-shirt, email Townsley at jtownsley@cocalico.org.

At the time of Cocalico’s first mini-THON, then-seventh-grader Hunter Leisey was undergoing treatment at Penn State Hershey.

“I have no doubt that our initial success was a result of teachers and the student body seeing that they could make a difference in both Hunter’s life and the lives of other children receiving treatment,” says Stacey Sola, who oversees a 50-student mini-THON committee.

The staff had also been touched by childhood cancer, which ultimately claims the lives of one out of every five children diagnosed.

When Assistant Principal Bradley Testa started at Cocalico seven years ago, his own son was being treated for Stage IV neuroblastoma. The disease was diagnosed when Daniel Testa was just eight months old.

The Testas benefited from Four Diamonds, and Daniel, now 7 1/2, is in remission.

Last year, Testa, his wife, Selma, and their son appeared onstage at THON, the 24-hour student-run fundraiser at Penn State University’s main campus. Bradley Testa spoke publicly about his family’s experience and their appreciation for the charity’s supporters.

It’s a role Testa has been reticent to take on at Cocalico, preferring to stay in the background and let his teachers and students lead the events.

Besides, Testa says, “if you mention cancer to Daniel now, he doesn’t even know what it is.”

That’s the kind of outcome students are working toward.

Hunter, now healthy and a student at Cocalico High School, spoke to middle school students again this year at a kick-off assembly. Staff also make it a point to share inspirational stories of other families who have been helped in significant ways.

More than 20 teachers guide students as they coordinate fundraising events throughout the year, banking funds to add to the February tally. This school year, subcommittees planned bake and lollipop sales, the Color Four a Cure 5K, a pottery-painting night, and a T-shirt sale.

In some cases, teachers have personally matched the amounts their advisory teams raised. For other events, local companies, including FiP and Two Cousins Pizza, have provided items at cost or hosted events.

The main push happens during a three-hour stretch next Friday, when most students will dance and play dodge ball. They’ll also be able to watch movies, play carnival games and challenge their teachers to some messy games-all for fees that benefit Four Diamonds.

The event is meant only for students, but friends and community members can support the fundraising efforts too. All money raised by Friday, Feb. 26, counts toward the annual total.

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