From the moment I heard the words, “You will complete a community project as an eighth-grade graduation requirement,” I immediately knew my project would be centered around supporting the fight against Childhood Cancer. My name is Abby Parker, I am 13 years old, and I am an eighth grader at Clissold Elementary in Illinois. You may be wondering what a community project is. Here at Clissold, we are part of the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program, for grades 6 through 8. The program focuses on understanding the importance of service and action. 6th and 7th graders complete service hours, while 8th graders complete a project that helps or services a community. I immediately knew I wanted to focus on Childhood Cancer.

Growing up I heard of adults getting diagnosed with cancer, but never children. I was in the 4th grade when I first heard of it. I had paid $2 for a dress down day at school. The money was going to Mrs. Miceli, my now 8th grade English teacher and her family. Her son, Nicholas, was diagnosed with alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma in 2017. She had to leave work that year to take care of Nick and her family. Clissold as a school, a community, and a family joined together to support her family throughout their fight. Sadly, Nick passed away in 2019, but his memory still lives on in the hearts and minds of us all. Nick inspired me to learn and understand childhood cancer, and inspired me to create my community project. I never met him, but the stories I’ve heard tell that he was a sweet boy who touched the hearts of every person he met.

Mrs. Miceli, Abby (center) and Ms. Van Dyke

Since the 4th grade, I’ve spent as much time as I can learning about childhood cancer. It is devastating to hear that a child has cancer. Children deserve to grow up without the constant fear of cancer. When I began to learn about cancer, I saw that there were many others in the area who have dealt with this awful disease. Different forms, various stages, but all the same devastating fight. Angels, survivors, or warriors are honored and remembered. One thing I can say is that I love organizations that help these families. One in the Chicagoland area I love is Christmas Without Cancer. It is a non-profit organization that helps families in so many ways. They host events throughout the year, but during the holidays they do one of my favorite events, the Lights & Ladders Brigade, where they decorate houses of families fighting cancer. It is an amazing event, and all around, Christmas Without Cancer is a wonderful organization and we are blessed to have others who do great things for these families.

Since my community project centered around childhood cancer, I decided to raise money by hosting a fundraiser called, “Hats & Hoods Heroes.” Here at Clissold Elementary we do not have a uniform but we do have a dress code. So when thinking of a school fundraiser, I had to get creative. That is when I thought of having kids pay $2 to wear their hats or hoods for an entire day. Wearing the hood on your sweatshirt is a favorite, especially in grades 6-8, so I knew it would be perfect. However, it was a process to get to hats and hoods day. First, I had to present to our local Schools Council to get my fundraiser approved. Then I had to go to every class, grades Pre-K through 8th, and present the information on the project. I explained that we picked the Megan Bugg Global Rhabdomyosarcoma Research Laboratory at cc-TDI because Megan had the same form of cancer Nick did. I set February 15th as the fundraiser date because it is International Childhood Cancer Day, and cc-TDI is an amazing place to support. I then spent weeks leading up to the fundraiser creating yellow ribbons to show who paid for the fundraiser and to signify the fight against childhood cancer.

On February 15th, I saw that the fundraiser was a wonderful success. The number of students, teachers, and faculty members that participated showed me just how amazing our Clissold community is. We had raised over $400 from Hats & Hoods Heroes. Seeing that number brought tears to my eyes. Clissold was able to not only provide support to cc-TDI, an incredible research laboratory, but my fellow students also saw how their personal connection to this cause can make a difference. In our community, the Miceli family had to deal with the devastation of cancer, and we saw this as an opportunity to help. Tears still well my eyes when I think of the fact that my community brought about change. It may be a small one, but I am so very proud of everyone who helped. All in all, I know the money that was donated will impact the outcome of the Megan Bugg Global Rhabdomyosarcoma Research Laboratory at cc-TDI. I hope that one day families, friends, and communities won’t have to suffer through the devastation of childhood cancer.

– Abby Parker, 8th Grade Student, Clissold Elementary

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