UNION, NJ — Union’s Washington Elementary School observed Childhood Cancer Awareness Month in September by joining the Whip Pediatric Cancer “Heart of Gold” campaign, according to a Sept. 30 press release from Union Public Schools.
The campaign was started more than a year ago to help raise awareness and funds for pediatric cancer research at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.
Close to 16,000 children under the age of 21 are diagnosed with cancer each year. The objective of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month is to put a spotlight on the types of cancer that largely affect children, to help survivors of cancer and to help raise funds for research and family support, according to the release.
The event was organized by school counselor Kim Marano and secretary Laura Finnerty, with the assistance of other teachers at the school.
The event was the school’s first “Youth in Philanthropy” cause for the 2016-2017 school year, with the school participating in the event from Sept. 22 through Sept. 29.
According to the press release, students received gold paper hearts to decorate, which were then displayed on the walls of the school’s auditorium. Students and staff were also asked to donate, and together they raised $1,000, meeting their goal. The school is planning to donate $750 to the Whip Pediatric Cancer Campaign, which benefits the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, pediatric division. In addition, students and staff will be sending $250 to the Team Campbell Foundation, named after Campbell Grace Hoyt, who passed away two years ago at the age of 8, after a five-year battle with ependymoma. Campbell is the niece of Mark Hoyt, the current principal at Battle Hill Elementary School in Union.
Greg Tatum, superintendent of Union schools, told LocalSource that he is extremely proud of the district. “The district is always proud of the efforts of our students, assisting in worthy causes such as this one,” Tatum said in an email. “Our students are to be commended for their hard work and efforts to support the needs of those in need.”
Tom Matthews, principal of Washington Elementary, told LocalSource that he is both proud and inspired by his students, saying, “It is so inspiring to watch our students come together to recognize and celebrate their great accomplishments. They raised so much money and, more importantly, raised awareness about this horrible disease. Sensitive topics, like childhood cancer, can be shared with children of any age if it is done in a very compassionate and age-appropriate manner.
“I am so proud of our students for being so compassionate and kind. Children become inspired to work hard and be kind when they are recognized for their selfless acts. When they feel happy and safe, they can learn. This charitable endeavor allowed them to feel good about themselves while they were helping others. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
On Sept. 29, the ‘Heart of Gold’ campaign was concluded with an assembly celebrating the school’s participation, and staff and students gathered outside to release blue and gold balloons — gold being the color for Pediatric Cancer Awareness Month, and blue representing the school’s color — in honor of the cause. Before releasing the balloons, Matthews spoke to students about the importance of charity and helping those in need, according to the release.
Jennifer Williams, of Union Public Schools, told LocalSource she is proud of what the school was able to accomplish in giving back to the community.
“It’s so wonderful to see our school community giving back,” Williams said in an email. “It truly brings a smile to my face and warms my heart seeing our students and teachers uniting for a common goal. What was accomplished by the Washington School community shows us that when we work together, anything is possible. Our district is filled with these kind acts, and it’s so great to watch.”
For more information about the Whip Pediatric Cancer Campaign visit whippediatriccancer.org. For more information about the Team Campbell Foundation visit www.teamcampbellfoundation.org.