Rockford schools rally around Relay—Part II


Second-grader Kyle Weston and third-grader Callen Doyle are the winners of Nooks at Valley View Elementary School for being the top two students raising money at a mini-relay event for Rockford’s Relay for Life. Kyle raised $500 and Callen raised $510 in pledges. Both students are still hoping to raise more money before this weekend’s Relay for Life event. Photo by CINDY M. CRANMER

This is a continued summary of what each school in Rockford Public Schools has come up with to contribute to the Rockford Relay for Life. Encouraging each school to organize their own fundraiser has been a goal of Relay organizers from year one. Last Friday through Saturday, May 18-19, from 3 p.m. to 3 p.m. was the town’s 10th Relay for Life event.

“We actually lost a couple staff members to cancer, so it hits close to home for us,” said Doug VanderJagt, Rockford Freshman Center principal.

“Knowing people gives you another reason to want to be involved with Relay for Life,” said Deb Gibson, a co-captain of the freshman center’s team and a counselor there.

Events include a Buffalo Wild Wings dinner, jeans days, luminary sales, bake sales, putting feet around the building and T-shirt sales.

“Our goal is to get as many people involved and just make as much as we can,” Gibson said. “Some years that may be $3,000 and others $5,000. This just pulls us together as a staff. It’s been a unifying experience to have a team. It’s about the spirit of Relay for us.”

Losing former principal Ron Faurot and teacher Bev Finch has made the school extremely supportive. The team is named after the staff members and the first team was pulled together in memory of Finch as she passed away shortly before the Relay for Life in 2008.

“It was almost a grief project the first year for staff to help us get through the loss,” Gibson said.

Students at Valley View Elementary School walk and run for 24 minutes to raise money for Rockford’s Relay for Life. More than $6,000 was raised in the fight against cancer. Photo by CINDY M. CRANMER

Faurot, who had moved on from Rockford but was remembered by staff, passed away in September 2009.

“Relay for Life has been a good way for us to focus some of that grief and hope and anger and celebration,” Gibson said. “It’s also a time for remembering. It’s been a very significant experience for us.”

Frank Schiller, a high school teacher, who lost a battle to leukemia, also had taught at the freshman center before moving on to the high school. Schiller also had taught at the middle school.

Dan Zang, Rockford High School principal, said a big goal at the high school is to encourage involvement. “Students are involved in a myriad of capacities,” he said.

Students are involved in everything from fundraising on site of the Relay for Life to setting up to the chamber singers singing on Saturday. The varsity girls water polo team also participated in a joint event with Jenison that made $1,250.

“They have done fundraisers over the course of the year to working on ways of raising awareness,” Zang said. “They are walking, volunteering, just supporting this.”

Crestwood Elementary Principal Tom Hosford describes “great representation” from the school for Relay for Life. “This year we have a goal of $10,000,” Hosford said.

Spirit days, staff jean days, class fundraisers are all the “little fun things” the school is doing to earn money.

Other events included Airhead candy sales, t-shirt sales, a chalk the walk event and a family movie night. Food was sold at the showing of “Alvin and the Chipmunks Chipwrecked” and Crestwood families involvement encouraged.

“This is an important event for the Crestwood family and the community alike,” Hosford said. “We’re really excited to be there and be involved.”

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