Trinity Catholic School students wore green March 6 as part of a schoolwide effort to support a teacher in his fight against cancer -- and to raise some green for cancer research.
Middle school math and science teacher Joe Wilson, diagnosed in February with breast cancer, is on medical leave.
Students designed green Wilson's Warriors T-shirts and sold them for $10 to Trinity staff and students, parents and other family members.
On March 6, students wore their shirts and watched a video during the morning assembly that included comments from teachers and classmates about what makes Wilson such a special person and what they miss most about him during his absence.
The entire run of 400 T-shirts is nearly sold out, said fourth- and fifth-grade teacher Shannon McCarthy.
"We're donating a portion of the T-shirt sales to cancer research and a portion we're using to buy gift cards for Joe's family," she said.
McCarthy is marking 10 months cancer-free after her own treatment for breast cancer. She was diagnosed at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.
"It's such a different experience to watch a good friend go through it," she said. "It's so hard to think about a friend sitting in the same type of chemo chair as I did and going through the same type of treatment."
Wilson's absence is deeply felt by his colleagues and all Trinity students, she said.
"Every student knows him and he'll greet every student by name in the hallway, even the students who aren't in middle school," she said.
Wilson brings exuberance, joy and humor to the school each day, principal Kimber Moehrman said.
At Halloween, he comes dressed in costume as Super Grover from "Sesame Street," and at Christmastime, Wilson will dress as Santa, she said.
"He's just a big kid," Moehrman said.
Wilson, 35, has taught at Trinity for three years. He's also an alumnus of the school, 1440 Grandview Ave.
"His classroom is right across the hall from one of the teachers (Elaine Schuttinger) who taught him when he was a student," Moehrman said.
Trinity means a lot to Wilson, and he means a lot to the school, she said.
"We all love Mr. Wilson, and we're all praying for him," eighth-grader Evie Borgerding said.
"He's such a good person. You can tell how much he cares about you," eighth-grader Jacob Blubaugh said. "He's always cheering you up."
Wilson takes the time to talk to every student, not just those in middle school, and is always willing to help them with their problems, eighth-grader Josh Ashmore said.
The day their teacher's illness was announced was unbelievably sad, Evie said.
"Not everyone broke down, but everybody cried," she said.
Even before Wilson was diagnosed, seventh-grader Mack Murnane chose breast cancer as the topic for his research project for school.
"It runs in my dad's side of the family, so it's something that I wanted to learn more about," he said. "My research was about how many people are diagnosed, what to do if you are diagnosed and what kind of treatments are available."
Breast cancer in men is a rare disease, according to nonprofit breastcancer.org. Less than 1% of all breast cancers occur in men. In 2020, about 2,620 men are expected to be diagnosed with it, and an estimated 520 men are expected to die from breast cancer, according to the site. For men, the lifetime risk of being diagnosed with breast cancer is about 1 in 833, the site states.
About 40,000 people die each year from breast cancer, Mack said. He was impressed with the work the Susan G. Komen organization is doing, he said.
"They have a goal of reducing the number of breast-cancer deaths by 50% by 2026," he said.
Mack's support for Susan G. Komen will make the foundation an ideal choice as the beneficiary of the money Trinity will donate from its T-shirt sale, Moehrman said.
In addition to the T-shirt sales, students are raising money for breast-cancer research and for Wilson's family through the Cereal Day events the school holds on the first Friday of each month, McCarthy said.
On those mornings before classes begin, students can purchase cereal to eat for $1.
"We're going to ask students to pay $2 now and use the proceeds to support our breast-cancer cause," she said.
Wednesdays also will be set aside as days students will be invited to wear Wilson's Warriors T-shirts, Moehrman said.
Nearly all Trinity students have purchased shirts, but the school will make arrangements to ensure students who have not been able to buy a shirt will receive one, she said.