PORT DOVER –
One of the four words that surround the logo of St. Cecilia School in Port Dover is kindness.
In trying times for a student in a different town and different school board altogether, the St. Cecilia community has shown plenty of kindness.
As the school was set to host its annual Mission Day – a fundraising carnival started by French teacher Tammy Caruso – word began to spread about Olivia Hazen.
Two years ago, Olivia – then a Grade 2 student at Lynndale Heights in Simcoe – was diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. ‘ALL’ is a type of cancer in which the bone marrow makes too many immature lymphocytes — a type of white blood cell. After almost 24 months of treatment, the youngster was given a clean bill of health in February.
But just one month later, she began experiencing constant headaches and doctors eventually determined leukemia had returned, this time in her spinal fluid.
Olivia is presently going through 29 days of chemotherapy treatment at McMaster Children’s Hospital with radiation scheduled after that.
The students/staff at St. Cecilia’s were so touched by Olivia’s story they donated all $500 raised on Mission Day May 5 to her family to help ease the financial burden that comes with travelling back and forth to Hamilton.
“Here at the school, a big focus this year is to love tenderly and I think when we talk about what that looks like, it’s not just about our immediate students and our very close family but it’s sometimes to reach out and make connections with other people in the larger community,” said St. Cecilia principal Bill Acres.
Many teachers dug into their own pockets to donate prizes for the carnival, and area businesses – some of whom have a direct connection to the facility, some who don’t – also stepped up.
“This is an incredibly giving school in terms of different types of things we’ve done throughout the year whether it’s fundraising, getting together on a Saturday to do clothing drives,” Acres explained.
“I think this just speaks to that and when it’s a very personal (situation) they dig in even deeper.”
The community at large has done the same. Lynndale Heights recently held a fundraiser/silent auction during their annual open house on Education Week, and Al’s Shoes contributed $500 while challenging other local businesses to do the same.
In total, funds gathered sit at a shade under $15,000.
“I can’t even describe it to you, it brings a tear to my eye,” fundraising team member and Lynndale Heights teacher Tracey Koskela said of the outpouring of support. “I have a hard time talking about it. The community has come together in a way that, it’s unbelievable really.”
More events are on the way too. Domino’s Pizza will host a day in support of Olivia on May 31 while a portion of proceeds from the school’s Jump Rope for Heart is earmarked for the family.
“They’re such a beautiful family, through and through,” said Koskela, who sits on the fundraising team alongside Christine Kazakevicius and Ann Reid. “Olivia is one of the strongest little girls I’ve ever seen, she’s still trying to put a smile on her face even with all this going on … I can’t imagine how it must feel for the family.”
Anyone wishing to pass along donations can do so by contacting Lynndale Heights at (519) 429-2997 or in person at 55 Donly Dr. South in Simcoe.