Students raise money for school employee diagnosed with cancer

BEVERLY – The signs around the Beverly-Center Elementary gym clearly say there’s “no food or drink allowed” inside.

But when it comes to raising money to help a person fighting cancer, sometimes it’s OK to break the rules.

That’s why – with the principal’s blessing and to the thunderous applause of students – a pair of Beverly-Center teachers got pies to the face Monday afternoon, in the gym of all places.

The event was the payoff to a month-long “Coins for Cancer” fundraiser in which students brought money into their homeroom to be donated to a Fort Frye Local school district employee recently diagnosed with cancer. Originally, the teacher of the class that got the most money was supposed to get the pie, but, based on the students’ performance, Principal Megan Miller decided it was OK to bend those rules a little too.

“I think that you guys raised almost $1,300,” she said. “Do you think that the top two teachers should…?”

At that point, Miller’s voice was drowned out by more cheers.

Students also roared their approval when Title I teacher Beth Hanes told them they’d raised $1,290 through the classroom collections, plus another $1,220.42 for BrAva, a local organization fighting childhood cancer, with a carnival held at the school on Sunday. Businesses donated food, prizes and materials for the carnival, so all the proceeds go to BrAva, Hanes said.

BrAva President Desni Crock said that latter amount is the most any school has raised in a single school year for the organization, which is named after Crock’s daughter Bridget, a cancer survivor, and Ava Nichols, a Waterford girl who died last year after a battle with cancer.

That news brought the loudest cheer of the afternoon. Hanes, who organized the Beverly-Center fundraisers and has taken up the fight against childhood cancer in honor of her own daughter Jillian’s diagnosis with and victory over the disease, said she was surprised and proud to see the students earn that distinction.

“My intention was just to raise awareness,” she said. “Kids are always very competitive.”

The top-earning class was Lois Neville’s second-graders. The teacher said she was “surprised, and a little nervous” when her name was called. She thought her students might have gotten some “help” from students she taught in higher grades.

“It might be because the older kids, I’ve had all of them,” she said.

The bonus pie went in the face of sixth-grade teacher Rob Nelson. He knew exactly what he was getting into, having been on the receiving end of this kind of victory before.

“Take it square in the face,” he said. “Don’t turn your head. You don’t want it in your ear.”

Sixth-grader Zane Greenleaf smashed the pie into Nelson’s face, while second-grader Joel Duskey delivered Neville’s. Both boys separately described the experience with the same word: “Awesome.”

The boys were selected because of their fundraising prowess: Duskey brought in $71, while Hanes said Greenleaf topped $100.

Greenleaf said he and his sister “went out around asking for donations.”

“Because I thought it’d be nice,” he said.

Duskey said he doesn’t worry that Neville will get back at him in class for the pie. Greenleaf couldn’t say the same about Nelson.

“I’ll coach him eventually,” Nelson said with a smile. “I’ve got him the next two years at basketball.”