CAMDEN WYOMING — The Sharp family moved into the Caesar Rodney School District over last summer. Chloe Sharp just started third grade at Allen Frear Elementary School — attending for about a week — when she got the unwelcome diagnoses of Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare disease in which cancer cells are found in the bone or in soft tissue.
She’s been undergoing treatment in Philadelphia since the diagnoses, only being able to make a few visits back to school. However, this didn’t stop Allen Frear Elementary School’s Girls on the Run Program from taking Chloe’s struggle to heart.
“Girls on the Run is a 10-week after school program that helps girls, third through fifth grade, to develop and improve on things like self confidence and strength of character,” said Ms. Ashlee Upp, the third grade teacher who organizes the school’s Girls on the Run program. “The girls try to make positive connections with each other and have a meaningful impact on society all while doing fun games that will prepare them for a 5k race at the end of the school year.”
The 31 students in Ms. Upp’s group decided to initiate a fundraiser, called “Coins for Chloe”, for Chloe and her family during a portion of their program that focuses on community impact.
“By working cooperatively as a team, they come up with community impact projects,” said Ms. Upp. “They think of causes that are important to them, then ask their classmates what’s important to them and then narrow down the list to select a cause to pursue.”
Supporting the elderly or members of the military are causes that are frequently near the top of the list, said Ms. Upp, but when the kids found out about Chloe’s diagnoses, it became close and personal.
“Childhood cancer was already an important cause for the girls, but when they heard that a student in our school was impacted by cancer, I feel like that it hit close to home and they had a connection to the project,” she added. “Also knowing that it directly affected someone in our own school community brought a face to the cause and got them invested in what they were doing.”
Once dedicated to the cause, Ms. Upp tasked her students with naming it, deciding how it would be implemented and executing it.
“We reached out to the family and asked if they were on board with us and calling attention to Chloe’s cause too,” said Ms. Upp. “They were excited about it and we just went from there.”
The girls spent about a month making posters that drew attention to the cause and spare change jugs to set out in each classroom of the school, Ms. Upp said. They also decided to incentivize the fundraiser.
“The girls decided that the classroom that raised the most money would get extra recess,” she said. “The girls were able to raise the money mostly on just students and staff bringing in their spare change.”
Although the collection jugs were only set out for one week, the Girls on the Run program was able to raise $2,475 for Chloe. The school has about 710 students between first and fifth grade. The girls presented a check for the amount to Chloe last Thursday.
Although the funds went toward easing the costs of Chloe’s treatment and the commute her family must routinely make to Philadelphia, the gains were in spirit as well said Julie Lavender, Principal of Allen Frear Elementary School.
“Chloe was excited to be getting help like this from her classmates,” said Ms. Lavender. “Her family was excited and honored too. Being new to the school, they were especially proud of the connections Chloe had made. All the students were honored to have been able to participate too.”
Fitting nicely into the school’s motto: “One Team, One Goal, No Limits”, Ms. Lavender thinks that the fundraiser was an important lesson for all involved and a demonstration of the importance of caring.
“From the perspective of the school it just shows our connection to the school community,” she said. “It fits with out motto in that we’re all working together and supporting one another.”
Ms. Upp said the fundraiser exceeded expectations. The participants in the growing program will spend some time reflecting on the importance of helping their peers, but in the spring, the Girls on the Run will run on to the next cause.
“We have two seasons of Girls on the Run, a fall and a spring one,” said Ms. Upp. “In the spring the girls will select a new cause to pursue.”
Reach staff writer Ian Gronau at firstname.lastname@example.org