BARNESVILLE - What began with a coffee can in 2009 has evolved into a community-supported fundraising event with, this year, laps around the gymnasium, a fishing tournament and a whiffle ball homerun derby. Lori Witchey and Bev McConnell, teachers at Barnesville Middle School, are preparing for next Friday's "Cutting Class for a Cure."
Both women have been affected by cancer. Witchey is a cancer survivor whose father passed away from cancer in 1994. McConnell's father, who is living, has battled cancer since 1973, but her husband and brother lost their battles with the disease. They decided to use their own stories in connecting with students - many of whom have experience with cancer in their own families - and to support local efforts helping cancer survivors.
In 2009, their campaign, called "Coins for a Cure," started by passing a coffee can around classrooms for donations. From 2009 to 2011 they raised $1,744.08. In 2012, Witchey and McConnell decided to get students and the community more involved and instituted "Cutting Class for a Cure." On that day, students who volunteered to pay $1 per period could walk laps in the gymnasium instead of attending class. And they ran with it.
T-L Photo/ GLYNIS VALENTI
Students at Barnesville Middle School and the general public can donate $1 per class period to walk laps in the gym during next Friday’s “Cutting Class for a Cure” event. All proceeds will go to 3 Cs Cancer Support Group, which helps patients and their families with extraneous expenses.
T-L Photo/ GLYNIS VALENTI
Participants in the “Cutting Class for a Cure” event can also purchase a certificate honoring a survivor or lost loved one to display in the school’s hallway.
T-L Photo/ GLYNIS VALENTI
Students purchase tickets for door prizes at Barnesville’s “Cutting Class for a Cure.” This year prizes include a bicycle, a Kindle and a selection of autographed sports memorabilia.
"We expected to have students coming in with $1 bills," says Witchey. "What we got was families sending $20 and $10 bills."
That year, the school raised just over $4,000 for the 3 Cs Cancer Support Group, which provides assistance to cancer patients and their families for services and items that health insurance doesn't cover. This includes, but is not limited to, wigs for chemotherapy patients, gasoline cards, grocery gift cards, meals and hotel stays during treatments.
Businesses have also "stepped up" with donations of both cash and door prizes. This year supporters include Barnesville American Legion, Antero Resources, Barnesville Education Association, Braido Memorials, Barnesville Kiwanis, Barnesville Girls' Basketball Parents, Barnesville Health Care Center, Chestnut Lanes Bowling, J-Mo Meats, Save-A-Lot, and Riesbeck's Market. State Senator Lou Gentile is expected to attend again this year.
Witchey and McConnell credit the school staff, student body, parents and community-at-large for helping make the event an annual success. The high school Key Club will be helping this year, as will middle school staff and students, members of Witchey and McConnell's families and other community volunteers.
While the whiffle ball homerun derby and fishing tournament are new activities this year in addition to a corn hole toss and music, everyone will still be able to walk laps in the gym and purchase certificates for an "honor wall" in the school hallway naming survivors and those who did not win their fights. There will again be a special lap around the gym for cancer survivors.
Prizes include a bike, a Kindle, a variety of gift cards, gift baskets, hanging flower baskets, water speakers, Cincinnati Reds tickets, Washington Wild Things tickets and autographed memorabilia from the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, Pittsburgh Steelers and The Ohio State University.
McConnell and Witchey are hoping for another success on Friday as they take their own big steps: both are retiring from teaching. McConnell will leave next winter after 33 years at Barnesville Middle School; Witchey will retire this month after 31 years at Barnesville Middle School. They may volunteer for "Cutting Class" next year, but note that "two veteran teachers have graciously consented to organize it" in 2015.
They add that the impact of this event is not only financial assistance to 3Cs and their patients, but it is "an opportunity to bring the community and school together, old and young alike. It gives our students a new perspective regarding the importance of giving back."
The students and community have taken an active role with more than 450 people participating as volunteers and/or walkers in 2013 with cash donations totaling $6,727.86. In its five years, the annual programs, be it "Coins" or "Class," have generated $12,476.74 for 3 Cs. Witchey and McConnell are grateful and call the response "overwhelming."
An opening ceremony will kick off the day, Friday, May 16, at 8 a.m., and activities will end at 2:30 p.m. All will be held at Barnesville Middle School, 970 Shamrock Dr. For more information, contact Witchey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-3116 x 4111; or Bev McConnell at email@example.com or 425-3116 x 4115.