When the staff at Lufkin Road Middle School found out last summer that healthful living teacher Marti Capaforte was diagnosed with cancer, they wanted to be able to scream from the rooftops, “We support you, Marti!”
But Capaforte, a teacher at Lufkin Road since it opened in 1999, at first wished to keep her illness private.
By Spring, staff members asked for her blessing in promoting a school-wide cancer prevention and education event, and the “Hope Games” were born.
Fellow healthful living teachers Sara DeMarco and Rob Weidenburner, 8th-grade social studies teacher Leslie Sniegowski and art teacher Jayna Huffines organized several events, including a Field Day, one of Capaforte’s favorite things.
“It all came together in a short amount of time – six weeks,” said Weidenburner. “Administrators were amazed throughout the day, especially when they saw 1,000 people on the field in the shape of ‘HOPE.’ ”
Students participated in team competitions and learned about skin cancer and melanoma at educational displays during Field Day.
In the weeks leading up to the Field Day, students and staff wore purple shirts each Monday for “Marti Mondays” with Capaforte’s favorite phrase, “Have a great day on purpose!” on the back. Teachers educated students about cancer prevention, and students wrote the names of people they knew who were affected by cancer on paper to hang in their pods.
In each pod, students collected change, raising $6,252 through “Change for Cancer” for the American Cancer Society and Relay for Life.
The weekend after Field Day, on May 19 and 20, students, parents and teachers participated in Relay for Life in Cary. The Lufkin Road team won first place in team donations with a total of $11,578.45.
“Although Lufkin Road always has a team, we worked even harder this year to get the students and community involved,” said Sniegowski. “Some people had just found out that people they knew were diagnosed, and of our 100 parents who participated, most did it because they knew people with cancer.”
The teachers said they saw the students change over the course of the events. “I think the students really matured and understood the big picture,” said Weidenburner. “They realize now that it’s good to support people in times of need.”