More than a decade ago Jennifer Dawson’s former student Tyler asked his teacher to fight for kids, like him, who have cancer. Three days later, Dawson’s student, who had battled cancer for six years, passed away at age 19. Soon after, another Lost Mountain Middle School student, Alexa, succumbed to the disease.
That’s when the social studies teacher decided to rally the kids at Lost Mountain to help fight cancer. After all, she’d made a promise to Tyler to do just that.
The middle school students just finished their 11th year of fundraising for childhood cancer research. From dropping money into buckets, bringing in donations from their family, and encouraging local businesses to give to the cause, Lost Mountain students raised an estimated $27,000 for the Rally Foundation this year alone. Since 2008, they have given more than $160,000 to cancer research.
Dawson thinks her Lost Mountain students can really be the change in the world, and they know it. Some of the Lost Mountain students rally for someone they know. Some rally in honor and memory of the 10 Lost Mountain kids who battled different forms of cancer. Some rally so one day their kids don’t have to.
“I have a lot of things in my life. I get to have a lot of fun and go to a lot of places. I feel bad for these kids who have to deal with cancer at such a young age. So, I like to raise money to help find a cure,” explained eighth-grader Joey.
Joey raised money from local businesses and family members. He even solicited the help of his older brother who raised $600 through his fraternity. Joey’s efforts yielded more than $1,000 to help find a cure.
Joey’s eighth-grade classmate Dyllon is not new to raising money for the Rally Foundation. She started fundraising at Vaughan Elementary School in memory of her neighbor Alexa, whose passing helped inspire the first Rally Week at Lost Mountain.
“I remember going to visit her in the hospital. She was always so happy and full of smiles. [Alexa] was never sad or down,” Dyllon recalled. “She was always hopeful. That is really inspiring.”
Because of Dyllon’s personal connection to a kid who battled cancer, she’s committed to the cause, but she thinks she can rally more donations if others understand that cancer is a disease that can impact anyone.
“Forty-six kids find out they have [cancer] every single day, and that is just terrible,” Dyllon said. “You should donate because then [the kids] have a hope of surviving and have a chance to beat this disease. Please donate.”
During Rally Week, biographies of those Rally Kids who have battled cancer line the school halls of Lost Mountain. Alexa’s story is there, along with the story of a current Lost Mountain student who is a cancer survivor.
Students could read about a Kemp Elementary School student named Joshua, who some of them knew. Joshua fought cancer for three years before his battle ended at the young age of seven. They could also read about a healthy and athletic teenager named Connor who is now a proud cancer survivor.
There are many more such stories that remind the students of why they stand outside of school with buckets and signs, rallying for donations. They are cheerleaders for a cause, a cause close to home. They are doing it for kids, kids like them.