No one fights alone

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By Dedra Cordle
Staff Writer

Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle The self-dubbed Richard Avenue Cancer Crew has raised over $1,200 (and counting) this school year, which they plan to donate to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research. From left to right, the crew are Emily Chatfield, Emily Spencer, Erin Brothers, Hannah Jennings, Allison “Alli” Antonoff, Emma Long and Morgan Dible. Not pictured is third-grader Sienna Thomas.
Messenger photo by Dedra Cordle
The self-dubbed Richard Avenue Cancer Crew has raised over $1,200 (and counting) this school year, which they plan to donate to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research. From left to right, the crew are Emily Chatfield, Emily Spencer, Erin Brothers, Hannah Jennings, Allison “Alli” Antonoff, Emma Long and Morgan Dible. Not pictured is third-grader Sienna Thomas.

Despite her young age, Hannah Jennings can attest to the power of friendship.

As Hannah was nearing the end of her third grade year at Richard Avenue, she let her closest friends in on a secret: Her mother Nicole was battling breast cancer for the second time.

Reeling with the news, they admitted they did not know what to say or do.

“When she told us, I thought maybe it wasn’t that serious but then I started to notice how sad Hannah was all of the time,” said Erin Brothers. “I knew then that we all had to do something to help her.”

Upon discovering that fundraising helped Hannah cope with her mother’s first diagnosis, (she went door-to-door selling bracelets) they asked Principal Cathy Moore if they would be able to hold their own fundraiser at the school. Moore agreed.

Hats and scarves – most made or donated by their parents – were quickly snatched up by the staff, but the girls noticed that their peers were bypassing the rest of the items on the fundraising table.

“It was the random prices,” said Hannah. “We were selling bookmarks for a dollar.”

“Nobody would say yes to us,” said Emily Spencer.

Quickly, they got their pricing under control and the money poured in. Within those few days of selling goods, they raised nearly $350 and donated it to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.

“Hannah’s dad took us to donate this ginormous check in person,” said Erin. “That was really cool.”

That feeling of accomplishment, of helping their friend get through a difficult time and the knowledge that they did something to help other people affected by cancer, is what inspired them to ask their principal if they could possibly host a fundraiser throughout the 2013/14 school year.

Moore pretended to play hardball at first, but eventually caved

“Really, how can you say no to that?” said Moore.

She told them that before they could hold a year-round fundraiser, they had to come up with a plan. It had to include what they were going to sell, how much the items would cost, who would be selling them on which days and how would they get the word out. They accepted the challenge.

Moore said she was surprised by how thought out their plan was.

“It told me that they were not going to give up on their fundraising efforts.”

They were so serious about raising money for cancer research that they even gave up their lunch and recess hour on Fridays just to tend to the table.

With help from their parents and the parent teacher association, new items decorated the table. There were pens, pencils, erasers, suckers, hats and desserts for sale. The most popular item by far was the bracelet that says ‘No One Fights Alone.’ Hannah says she chose ‘No One Fights Alone’ over ‘Fight like a Girl’ because it is something her father Joshua always said to her mother.

“I always loved that,” she said.

Every Friday the group of friends, or the “Cancer Crew” as they called themselves, could be found at the table fundraising with a smile. Then, in late November, Nicole passed away.

“It was really tough,” said Moore. “Everyone was affected by it. The girls all wanted to keep busy and keep Hannah busy but I think it just hurt them too much to be around the fundraiser.”

They decided to hold the fundraiser only once a month, but then their determination to fight the disease came back in full force. They started holding their fundraiser every Friday again.
They asked their parents for ideas (and extra donations). They got involved with Pennies for Patients to benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. The students at their school helped raise a lot of money.

“We were all just so inspired to do good stuff to make a change,” said Morgan Dible.

When the tight-knit group of friends found out that the mother of another student, a third grader named Sienna Thomas, was diagnosed with breast cancer, they brought her into their crew and their fundraising efforts.

Sienna said they have been her support group through this difficult time.

Hannah said that is just what friends are supposed to do.

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