Midtown Raleigh News

Community raises money for teacher with breast cancer on GiveForward

A community of parents, students and staff have banded together to raise more than $6,000 of $10,000 for a local teacher’s breast cancer treatment expenses.

Jen Williams, a second-grade teacher at Underwood GT Magnet Elementary School, was diagnosed with triple negative breast cancer in March. The donation will cover Williams’ out-of-pocket expenses such as medications and doctor’s visits.

“I didn’t believe it,” Williams said. “It all happened really fast.”

A lump was found during a routine checkup.

“I’m the type of person that goes to the doctor once a year,” she said. “(I’m) very healthy. I don’t do doctors. This is crazy for me.”

Williams returned to teaching until May 4 before her mastectomy on May 9. “I felt bad I couldn’t finish the year out,” Williams said. “It was the best group of kids.”

When Jodi Schwartz, whose two kids have been taught by Williams, discovered the news, she asked whether anyone had set up a fundraising account.

“My kids just adore her and she’s just such an amazing teacher,” Schwartz said. “She’s always so positive and wonderful.”

In late May, Schwartz set up a GiveForward website for Williams. After three weeks, it had raised 60 percent of the goal.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be that quick that we would hit this mark,” Schwartz said.

Williams said she didn’t expect the support she has received.

“I can’t believe how much the parents and staff have contributed,” Williams said. “I always knew the parents liked me, I just didn’t know it was that much.”

On June 6, teachers, parents and students set up a lemonade stand, raising $900.

Other donations came from Underwood first-grade teachers, who donated the money that would have gone to their end-of-year gifts.

“We’ve had an amazing response and because she’s a teacher, it is such a wide community of people she knows,” Schwartz said.

Ryan Lloyd, one of William’s students this past year, has been raising money on his own by asking friends and neighbors. So far, he has raised $23.

“She’s my favorite teacher because she’s kind, caring and helps all the students,” Ryan said.

Schwartz is now setting up a raffle. This week, those who donate $50 or more will have a chance to win a $150 certificate to Crazy Combs Salon. Next week, two sets of four fitness classes at HEAT Studio Gym will be given away.

“We want to do whatever we could do to give her support,” Schwartz said. “Obviously I can’t do anything about her cancer, but we can help get her mind off financial issues and focus on her recovery.”

A meal train has also been set up for Williams.

“I don’t even know how I’m supposed to thank these people,” she said.

The end date for the fund is July 17. GiveForward will send the money to Williams 14 days later.

Next year, Williams says, she plans to return to teaching.

“I’m just going to try to be as normal as possible and put it behind me and get the year started,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m going to be or feel, but we’ll see.”

Ryan said he and his classmates will visit Williams before going to their first class and give her a big hug.