Hearts against cancerPublished 11:16pm Friday, November 15, 2013
The Lakeland High School community has dug deep this past week in the fight against cancer, raising more than $285 for the cause.
Folks donated money and wrote messages for cancer patients, survivors and victims on pink and blue paper hearts, posting them on a wall in the main hall.
Last year’s death of Lakeland English teacher Debbie MacInnes was the campaign’s catalyst, said Paula Wagner, a former Lakeland student who was a protégé of her late friend after returning to the school as a teacher. She now teaches senior English, honors English and journalism.
MacInnes lost her two-year battle with breast cancer in the month of November.
“She was my teacher when I took AP, then my colleague when I came here,” Wagner said, explaining she and another colleague, social studies teacher India Meissel, decided upon a week of raising money and awareness as a fitting tribute to MacInnes.
“She ended up becoming my mentor. … She helped me get things straight, learn the ropes; she was a true friend. It was interesting to see how the relationship went from student-teacher to friend.”
For Lakeland students, the weeklong campaign that ended Friday, titled Give a Heart to Help a Heart, was an opportunity “to honor those who have passed away, honor those still living with the disease, and support those that are struggling with it,” Wagner said.
While teachers, other school staff and parents earned their message on a paper heart with donations, it was free for students, as a way of encouraging their participation.
Stationed at the campaign table Friday were Kathleen Swift, Kristen Walden and Alexis Davis, and each senior and journalism student of Wagner’s had a cancer story to tell.
Swift: “My mother and uncle had cancer. I don’t remember what kind of cancer my uncle had, but my mother had breast cancer. And they are both survivors.”
Walden: “My aunt is a breast-cancer survivor three times. She’s recently gotten it back again. She’s doing fairly well with it.”
And Davis: “I have a close family friend suffering breast cancer.”
The family has been organizing yard sales and other fundraising activities, Davis added, and her involvement in her school’s campaign was her way of contributing.
Wagner said she was shocked by the campaign’s response, saying cancer seems to have touched the lives of most students in one way or another.
“It’s just such a nasty, nasty disease, and it affects so many people, whether it’s hopeful or sad,” she said. “There’s two sides to that coin.”