West Side News

'Cancer Crew' at Richard raises funds to battle disease

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The Richard Avenue Elementary "Cancer Crew" holds fundraising sales every Friday during lunch and recess at the school. Members include (from left): Emma Long, Emily Chatfield, Allison Antonoff, Sienna Thomas, Emily Spencer, Hannah Jennings, Erin Brothers and Morgan Dibble. All are fourth-graders except for Thomas, who is in third grade.

Inspired by the courage of one of their mothers in her fight against breast cancer, a group of local fourth-grade girls is leading a campaign to raise funds for efforts to find a cure.

The project is being led by Hannah Jennings, Emily Spencer, Allison Antonoff and Erin Brothers, all students at Richard Avenue Elementary School in Grove City.

They began their effort last year, in honor of Hannah's mother, Nicole, who died from the disease Nov. 30.

"They kind of went behind my back and started setting things up," Hannah said.

"I didn't want Hannah to just sit there and be sad all the time," Erin said. "I wanted to do something positive."

"I felt bad for Hannah and her Mom and what they went through," Allison said.

Emily said she also was inspired by a baby cousin of hers who was diagnosed with cancer.

"We went to our principal and asked if we could do a fundraiser and she told us first we'd have to come up with a good plan," Hannah said.

Over the final three days of last school year, the girls raised nearly $350.

"We really didn't know what we were doing. We didn't know what to say to people," Erin said. "This year, we've been a lot more organized and we're better at selling. We made some announcements at the beginning of the year so people would know what we were doing."

The girls conduct their fundraising sale every Friday during lunch and recess, and have expanded their goods to include blankets, scarves and pillows made by some of their mothers as well as posters they have designed and created themselves.

Other students, including fourth-graders Emma Long, Emily Chatfield, Morgan Dibble and third-grader Sienna Thomas, have joined what is known as Richard Avenue's "Cancer Crew."

The group has raised $1,224 so far this school year.

"We've been so surprised at how much money we've collected," Erin said. "People know what we're doing, and they are so supportive."

A movie night alone -- which included a screening of Despicable Me 2 and pizza and snack sales -- raised $652.

Richard Avenue's PTA furnished the pizza and snacks for the girls to sell and also created "No One Fights Alone" bracelets.

"In February we sold the bracelets for $2, with $1 going to Pennies for Patients (a Leukemia and Lymphoma Society program) and $1 to us," Hannah said. "Since Pennies for Patients ended, we sell the bracelets for $1."

The Cancer Crew donates all its proceeds to the Stefanie Spielman Fund for Breast Cancer Research.

Last Halloween, Hannah's father, Joshua, took the girls to the Spielman Fund headquarters, where they donated the funds they had raised in their initial effort.

That included the $30 Hannah and Allison had raised over the summer selling items they made out of duct tape, pens and magnets and $80 Hannah raised during her mother's illness.

Joshua Jennings said his daughter's initiative comes from her late mother.

"She gets it from her mom," he said. "When you see her doing all this, you're seeing her mom in her. It's the very best part of her mom.

"I'm so proud of her and I know Nicole would be proud, too," Jennings said.

Richard Avenue asks its students to follow a set of core virtues, including compassion, responsibility and character, Principal Cathy Moore said.

"These students are truly demonstrating our core virtues through this project," she said. "What's impressive is that they've stuck with it and expanded the project this year."

The girls will be moving on to Holt Intermediate School next year, but they plan to ask their new principal for permission to continue their fundraising effort in fifth grade, Hannah said.

"We want to keep doing this in honor of my mom and to help everyone who is battling breast cancer," she said.

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