Team Darden is back again

Published 11:16 pm Saturday, April 21, 2012

A team of faculty and students from King’s Fork Middle School gathers for a photo at last year’s Relay for Life, less than 24 hours after its namesake, principal Talmadge Darden, succumbed to a battle with cancer. Team Darden is making its second appearance in this year’s Relay.

 

One of the most heart-wrenching stories to come out of the Suffolk Rockin’ Relay for Life last year was that of Team Darden.

The team, made up mostly of faculty and students from King’s Fork Middle School, formed in honor of principal Talmadge Darden, who was fighting cancer in the months and weeks leading up to Relay.

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Less than 24 hours before the first lap, he lost the battle at the age of 54. The team — which saw several new members even in the hours and minutes before Relay as a groundswell of support formed — still walked in his memory.

The team continues its work in his honor this year, said team captain and KFMS history teacher Hope Bradshaw.

“It’s one of those things we feel like we need to do every year now,” Bradshaw said.

It hasn’t been easy for the teachers at the school this year, she said. Even though his death was expected, it still was hard to handle for the students, who looked up to Darden, and for the teachers, many of whom had never worked for another principal.

He began his career with Suffolk Public Schools in 1979 as a teacher at Southwestern Intermediate School. He became assistant principal there in 1985, then became principal at John Yeates Middle School in 1990. In 2001, he helped open King’s Fork Middle School.

“It was a hard year last year,” Bradshaw said. “All of us look for him every day, still. I think in times like that, you just need to continue the legacy.”

The new principal, Jennifer Presson, has been supportive of the efforts to honor Darden, Bradshaw said.

“There was never any question,” Bradshaw said. “(She) was all for it.”

The team is once again selling cookbooks with signature recipes from Darden, who loved to cook and often catered events at the school. The cookbooks will go for $20 and will be available at the team’s tent at Relay.

In addition, the team will hold a golf tournament May 5 at Nansemond River Golf Club. Registrations still are being accepted. Those who wish to register should call Bradshaw at 923-5246.

“We’re hoping we get Dr. Whitney and maybe even Dr. Liverman to make a superintendent team,” Bradshaw said, referring to current superintendent Deran Whitney and retired superintendent Milton Liverman.

Current and former students also are getting involved in Team Darden. King’s Fork High School students who remember Darden are excited about helping, and “even my new sixth-graders, a lot of them know what Team Darden is,” Bradshaw said. “It’s good for them to do community work.”

She said it means even more knowing that Darden, who always supported the school’s efforts for Relay, is looking down on them even now.

“He was always real proud when we did that kind of stuff,” she said.

Relay for Life is happening May 18-19 at Bennett’s Creek Park. For more information, visit www.suffolkrockinrelay.org.