When tragedy struck the close-knit community of Dacula, everyone felt it. When cancer claims a child’s life, it affects everyone — the parents, teachers, friends — the whole community grieves. But where some despair, others find opportunity to come together and make a difference.
And that’s what Dacula High School’s Student Council decided to do.
When new council members completed their application, they were prompted to describe a project they’d like to see implemented. Tia Lamont, a Sophomore, wrote on her application that she wanted to do a Color Run – she saw it as a fun way to raise money. On his application, Harper Day, also a Sophomore, wrote he wanted to do a fundraiser for CURE, a nonprofit that donates 100 percent of its resources to childhood cancer.
“The government only gives four percent of its cancer funding to childhood cancer,” said Harper whose brother, Owen, passed away about a year and a half ago after battling Acute Myeloid Leukemia for exactly one year.
Before long, Tia and Harper joined forces, merging their project ideas. They met every Friday for months to plan the details for the CURE 3K Color Run. According to their student council sponsors Kelly Cooper and Amy Benson, they did everything acquiring sponsors, mapping the course, and promoting the event.
“This is their thing. We just order things, and we guide and advise, “said Amy Benson.
Tia created the artwork for the posters and T-shirts. She thought footprints would be appropriate, and so she worked with other students to create the fun logo they used for the Run which was held on Mar. 23, 2019.
Harper got his hands dirty with research and other logistics. His dad, Jonathan Day, is the principal of Mulberry Elementary School and offered the school’s campus for the race.
It all came together when community sponsors got involved. Pennington Fence supported the event installing a gate and mending a fence at the Elementary School so participants could make the 3K trek around the school.
“This is surreal,” Harper said after a meeting where they reached their goal of recruiting 50 volunteers to help with the 3K Run.
A week out from the race, there were 200 registered runners. Many of the families who showed up had their own experiences with childhood cancer. One of those was Mark Myers, who showed his support running through clouds of blue, gold and pink powder.
“I lost my daughter as well, and I just love seeing the power of community with everybody coming together for this,” said Myers, Director of Communications for CURE Childhood Cancer. “We’re doing great things in the greater-Atlanta area and it’s so wonderful to feel the community come together to support us as well.”
Malinda Day, Harper’s mom, spoke to the impact CURE had on her family’s life during their time of need. “Cancer impacts the family members as well. A lot of times, with two-parent families, one will have to stop working, so there are a lot of unforeseen hits a family takes emotionally and financially, and CURE does a lot for the whole family.”
Not only providing counseling services for bereaved families, and emergency financial support and meal programs, CURE conducts research in hopes of ending childhood cancer. They are headquartered in Atlanta Georgia and offer services across the nation.
“This is big for the community,” said Benji Hollis whose daughter, Anna Charles, passed in late 2018. “The community really pulled together, and I hope people leave here talking about what [the students] did.”
In the eyes of their student council-sponsors, students from Dacula High demonstrated outstanding leadership qualities organizing themselves for a greater cause. “They’re making a difference, and we’re proud to be their adults, “Amy Benson said of the students who planned the run. “It’s not just on one student, they work as a group and we love to see how they tackle big problems.”
Ultimately, Ms. Benson added, “Our race was created to honor Owen and to honor the battle other children in our community were waging against this terrible disease at the start of our planning. “
Of her personal reasons for being part of the CURE Run, Tia said, “I was inspired by the kids at my school who were hit by [Childhood cancer] because there is so much of it here. I like to do something to counteract a disease that has caused so many people pain.”
For those in the community who have experienced loss, the healing process is far from over, but working towards a solution might be a step in the right direction.
“I’ve been thinking about how to deal with it,” Harper said. “That I can help others gives me gratitude, even the little things matter. The smallest favors can make a parent’s day. If I can bring anything positive out of a bad situation [I’d like to try].