By Dedra Cordle
Like most high school students, Kaylynn Kocher looks forward to sleeping in on Saturdays. But when her alarm rang very early on Oct. 1, she got ready to go to school without any complaints.
“I wanted to be here for this,” said the sophomore at Franklin Heights.
With a handcrafted poster at her side, she found some of her friends from Key Club and set up a position at the track. There, she raised her sign that said ‘One Nurse, One Patient, One Step at a Time’ and cheered as participants took off in the first ever 5K race/walk for Breast Cancer Awareness at her school.
As the runners and walkers ran the course, Kocher and the student cheering section roamed the grounds offering words of encouragement as they raced by.
During stretches where there were not any runners or walkers around, she and her fellow students waved their signs at passing cars and told them to honk for further encouragement.
Though it was early morning, the cheering section was wide awake and ready to erupt at any sign of a runner or walker coming near. Kocher said she couldn’t imagine being anywhere else but back at school on a Saturday.
“It was really important for me to be here,” she said. “I have had a lot of family members who have had cancer so I wanted to come out here and show support.”
She said when she first learned about the 5K event two weeks ago during a Key Club meeting, she marked it on her calendar and started making her poster. She explained that it was her take on the popular slogan ‘No One Fights Alone.’
“We’re all in this together,” she said before spotting a runner on his way to the finish line and giving a big cheer.
Rhonda Wright, an intervention specialist who co-teaches algebra at the school, said she was impressed by the turnout and the support shown by the Franklin Heights community for the event she helped establish.
“They have been so amazing,” she said. “This has been so amazing.”
Wright said she did not expect so many people to either participate or come out to cheer on the runners and walkers for this first annual event, but she is not that shocked that they did so.
“We have such a supportive community here at Franklin Heights,” she said. And she would know.
It was August of 2015 when Wright was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer. Upon hearing the news, co-workers rallied around her to offer support and fill in on bus duty when she had to leave early for treatment. They even helped pitch in when she was creating individualized education programs.
“They helped me out so much,” she said. “With the big and little things.”
Inspired by their show of love and support, Wright came up with the idea to hold a race/walk for breast cancer awareness at the school. She spoke with Julie Raccio about the logistics of the race and went full steam ahead as soon as the school gave the OK and they received official sponsorship.
In the spring, she contacted Carol Swank and Kathleen Edwards, a retired teacher and aide, respectively, and asked if they would consider being the honorary co-chairs of the event.
Both said they didn’t have to consider it as they knew right away they would be there.
Swank, who was a home economics and early childhood development teacher, she said she wanted to be here to let her students and co-workers know how much she appreciated them after she received her breast cancer diagnosis in 2001.
“They all treated me so well,” she said.
For Edwards, an aide from 2000 to 2006, she said she just wanted to give back to the school for supporting her and her husband Jack, a former science teacher, during her battle with breast cancer and his battle with Alzheimer’s.
“This school means so much to the both of us,” she said.
Supporting the cause and those who battled breast cancer also meant so much to the students (current and former) and staff as well.
In total, the participants raised nearly $1,000 for the Stefanie Spielman Fund and the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute. It also inspired them to consider making the 5K race/walk an annual event.
“We’re definitely going to try,” said Wright.