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East Elementary's schoolwide Relay For Life blows past its goals

Jordan Manning, 9, a third grader, at East Elementary, hands off the baton to Melissa Acatitlan, 9, also a third grader, in the school's mini Relay for Life. (Below) East Elementary principal Denny Ferguson, dressed as Batman, takes photos of the start of the faculty portion of his school’s mini Relay for Life event. Elizabeth Tucker, a second-grade teacher at East Elementary raises her hands in victory as she crosses the finish line.

How much does an elementary school student understand about raising money for cancer research? At East Elementary School, students understand quite a lot.

East Elementary principal Denny Ferguson said the faculty decided to make their Relay for Life school-wide initiative more than just a fundraiser.

“They wanted to get the kids involved, let the kids understand what they’re raising money for and the importance of it. They wanted to bring that experience to the students,” Ferguson said.

The school simulated a Relay for Life event at the school, race and all, setting a goal of raising $600. When all was said and done, however, they had raised $800. (This greatly added to the yearlong total of $3,500 raised over several fundraisers.)

“Our kids have big hearts,” said the school’s mini relay organizer, kindergarten teacher Erica Retzlaff. “They want to fight back, as well. We wanted to include them in the fight. The kids here can also take a step toward fighting cancer.”

Learning the importance of giving was the main lesson Ferguson hoped students would learn, and by having a mini-relay event at his school, it made the event more than just a fundraiser. “It was also a celebration of all the hard work.”

Teachers spent about a week teaching students exactly what the relay race meant and for what the money would be used.

Jordan Manning, 9, a third grader, said he not only had fun running at the mini relay, but he was also proud that he was participating in such a good cause.

“We’re running to save people’s life from cancer,” Jordan said, after he came across the finish line. “We raise money so people can have the medication they need to get better. I’ve never done this before, but I would like to do it again. It’s fun. We’ve raised $700 so far. That’s pretty awesome for our school.”

“We wanted every child in the entire building to have that experience, regardless of whether they could participate in the big relay,” Ferguson said, referring to the annual countywide Relay for Life held this year on May 1 at Sun Valley High School.

To fit with the Relay’s countywide theme of super heroes, Ferguson told his teachers they were allowed to dress as their personal favorite super hero if all students in their class contributed one dollar.

Retzlaff and fellow kindergarten teacher Jessica Santana, (both spearheaded the school’s yearlong effort) set a goal of raising a total of $1,000 over the course of the entire school year with numerous fundraising events.

East Elementary’s mini relay alone, however, raised $800, and the school’s yearlong effort raised a total of $3,500. “It shows you what you can do when you get people to buy in,” Santana said.

East Elementary teacher assistant Michelle Konopka certainly bought into the effort. She shaved her head and donated her hair to Locks of Love when the school passed its goal of $600.

Retzlaff has a person reason for raising money for Relay for Life. She lost her grandfather, Bob Ducore, from lung cancer five months ago. “This effort is especially close to my heart,” she said. “I hope he’s smiling down on us.”

East Elementary’s staff will participate at the countywide effort at Sun Valley High School, and will all dress in Batman costumes.

Written by: Deb Coates Bledsoe - UCPS Communications Coordinator
Posted: May 01, 2015 by Deb Coates Bledsoe

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