Student raises funds for breast cancer cure

Published 9:04 pm Wednesday, November 3, 2010

200 bookmarks: Kayla Baylor has been working on 200 bookmarks which she plans to sell for 50 cents to benefit breast cancer research as part of a class she is taking at a senior at Lakeland High School.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of stories about students in a new service-learning class at Lakeland High School.

As a young child, Kayla Baylor saw her great-grandmother and great-grandfather fight breast cancer.

The two were diagnosed when she was 8 years old, just a couple years after her family moved away from them. During trips to see them, she saw them deteriorate. All the while, they were trying to shield her from the truth of their illness.

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“It was really hard for me,” Kayla said. “It did have an effect on me. I spent a lot of time with them, and I saw a lot of the pain they went through even though I didn’t really understand it at the time. They tried to hide a lot of it because I was so young.”

Now a senior at Lakeland High School, Kayla is doing her part to fight against the disease that robbed her of her loved ones.

Kayla is enrolled in a “service-learning” class, which is a first-year pilot program at Lakeland High School.

Students in the class must complete 70 hours of active volunteer work throughout the year and are engaged in several community service projects throughout the year. For each project, students must research their topic, connect it to Standards of Learning requirements and give presentations to their classmates about their work.

One of Kayla’s main projects this year has been making 200 pink, beaded bookmarks to sell at local stores and flea markets to benefit breast cancer research. The bookmarks, which sell for 50 cents, are paint chip samples donated by Lowe’s, which she and four other students working on the project have hole punched, tied with yarn, beaded and decorated with inspirational quotes.

It’s an idea she came up with on her own.

“With what I saw breast cancer do and the history of cancer in my family, I knew I wanted to do something to help,” Kayla said.

The project began with two weeks of research that Kayla put into finding out the facts about breast cancer, treatment, risk factors and survival.

“The more I’ve researched the disease, the more I’ve become motivated to do my project,” Kayla said. “I have been surprised to find out that one in eight women will be affected by breast cancer, and that there is a very high survival rate if it’s found early enough.”

Equipped with new knowledge about the disease, Kayla has found that raising money isn’t the only way she can help in the fight against breast cancer.

“I want to help make people more aware,” Kayla said. “People say ignorance is bliss, but with breast cancer it’s not. People need to know what the risks are and how early diagnosis can help. I’ve also found out a lot of information on how to help people going through this and want to share that with them and remind them that faith is on their side.”

While her knowledge about the disease has helped fuel her compassion for breast cancer patients and her desire to raise funds for a cure, Kayla has also learned that as a teenager, she has power to effect change.

“As teenagers, I think we’re used to doing what we’re told, and while it’s important to respect our teachers and our parents, we need to learn when to go out and do something and that we can help out with something,” Kayla said.

The next step in Kayla’s project is to find businesses willing to let her sell her bookmarks once they’re finished in mid-November. To help Kayla, contact the class teacher, Cathy Williams, at Lakeland High School at 925-5790.