Hamburg sixth graders raise more than $7,000 for Relay for Life

Item photo by Shea Singley Sixth (and fifth) grade students during their silent lap at Relay Field Day.
Item photo by Shea Singley Survivors Tracy Francis and Megan Lesniak.

Once again the sixth graders at Hamburg Area Middle School went above and beyond in their fundraising efforts for Relay for Life. This year the students raised a total of $7,875. Their fundraising began in February with a goal of $5,000.

You did a phenomenal job, said Racy Francis, sixth grade teacher as well as American Cancer Society-Relay Field Day Coordinator and cancer survivor. Congratulations. You have no idea how much of an impact that will make.

After months of raising funds with various activities such as FunFriday, Donut Donation and Hat Day, the students spent an afternoon learning about cancer and the fight against the disease in a fun way with the American Cancer Society Relay Field Day on May 9.

Cancer is an inescapable reality for all us. Whether it is a loved one who has lost their battle, a friend who is just beginning the fight or a survivor of this devastating disease, said Francis. It is a truth we cannot escape. Cancer affects us all. But together we are standing up and shouting that this is not okay. This should not be our reality. This should not be our truth. Cancer takes so much, but cancer will not bring us down.

Just as they had last year, this years sixth grade students accepted the challenge to make a large impact in the fight against cancer with their fundraising efforts and dedication.

As a cancer survivor, I am truly touched and inspired by the support all of you have shown for this worthy cause, said Francis. I am so proud of the compassion and character you have shown.

Following a day full of a presentation, decorating luminaria bags for Relay for Life of Central Berks and educational and fun activities, the students were able to hear from another survivor who was once sitting in the same spot as them. Their speaker also had a special anniversary to celebrate.

Today, I am two years cancer free, said Megan Lesniak, a senior at Hamburg Area High School. I wouldnt have gotten to where I am today without you guys and the stuff you do for us. It affects everybody.

Lesniak was diagnosed with stage two Hodgkins lymphoma on February 1, 2012. On May 9, 2012 she was declared cancer free. As she stood in front of her younger peers, Lesniak told them her story from diagnoses to being declared as cancer free.

At the moment I just became kind of emotionless, Lesniak recalled on hearing the diagnoses. Not until it happens to you, you dont really think much of it.

During her treatments, Lesniak still participated in sports and maintained honor roll even with a significant amount of time out of school.

In the meantime I just carried on. You cant let that slow you down, she said. You keep going through. Gotta keep fighting back and going against it.

Lesniak spoke about her strong support system and what a difference it makes knowing that there are people helping the cause and supporting those fighting the disease.

Congratulations on all the money you guys raised. It will help everybody, Lesniak told the students.

Even after they were dismissed, the students wanted to speak with Lesniak.

The Relay Field Day program began with a presentation by Dr. Amy Hendrix of Reading Dermatologists. During her presentation, Hendrix would quiz the students on important safety tips and information about skin cancer. Students who answered correctly and participated received a treat making the program informative as well as fun for the sixth graders.

After that the students headed back to their homerooms where they decorated luminaria bags. Part of decorating involved personifying cancer and writing a letter to the disease about how the students felt toward it. Then the students traveled to the football stadium where they placed their luminaria bags, had a special visit from Red the mascot from Red Robin and participated in educational games.

Four stations were set up on the football field. The stations included a lesson on nutrition with an apple snack, a sunscreen station that reinforced the points that Hendrix made earlier in the day, a cancer related crossword puzzle during which homerooms raced to see who would finish first and a game of tag called cell invasion which demonstrated how quickly cancer spreads.

Once finished at each station the students gathered together on the field, with some fifth grade students as well, during which Francis read facts about cancer and talked about how it affects everyone.

Prior to Lesniak speaking, the students took a silent lap around the track. Once the afternoon was over and the students were dismissed the luminaria bags that they decorated and put along the track were collected to be taken to the Relay for Life of Central Berks which is taking place this Friday, May 16 at Schuylkill Valley High School.

The fun run created by Megans peers called Megans Mudder is set to take place on May 31 at Friedens Church in Shartlesville.

Follow The Item on Twitter @hamburgitem.

About the Author

Shea Singley

Shea Singley is the editor of The Hamburg Area Item. She grew up in Berks County and spent three years at the University of Arizona, Tucson, where she double majored in Creative Writing and English before transferring to Kutztown University where she majored in Professional Writing. Shea graduated from Kutztown University in 2012 and during that time completed an internship in the publication department of a non-profit organization in Washington, DC. She joined Berks-Mont Newspapers in March of 2013 and had enjoyed getting the chance to explore the Hamburg area and meet the readers. Reach the author at ssingley@berksmontnews.com or follow Shea on Twitter: @hamburgitem.