February 9, 2012 • 2,007 views
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Most of you have heard of leukemia and lymphoma. Maybe you’ve read about it in a novel, maybe you’ve seen it written on a poster in the pediatrician’s office, maybe you have a personal connection. Actually strike that. There is no maybe on the last one. As a student at Harriton, whether you recognize it or not, you definitely have a personal connection. You have a personal connection because you see Mr. Klick in the hallways. You have a personal connection because you’ve played football with Austin. You have a personal connection because you’ve had English with Mr. Fritz or foods with Ms. Barnett. You have a personal connection because when you chose to go to Harriton you became a part of a community, and this community has a connection.
So what are leukemia and lymphoma? They are two kinds of blood cancer. Leukemia affects bone marrow; it causes the overproduction of blood cells. On the other hand, Lymphoma affects the immune (lymphatic) system and, like all cancers, causes excessive cell growth. Both diseases are curable. In fact, a few types of lymphoma and leukemia have remission/recovery rates around 80% and 90%. But something we too often forget is that 90% isn’t 100%. When you know someone who is part of the 10%, then it doesn’t matter that 90% of patients survive. What matters then is that someone you know isn’t going to make it. Dead is dead. There really isn’t any math involved. The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society is trying to change those numbers and the grimmer ones like the 5-year survival rate of 38.5% for Myeloma (another type of bone marrow cancer) patients. And here at Harriton, their mission is carried on by a teacher and a student.
The teacher is Mr. Klick. A lymphoma survivor himself, Mr. Klick has been chosen to participate in the LLS’s “Man of the Year” campaign. He will spend 10 weeks organizing fundraisers in order to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research. One such fundraiser is the Dance-a-thon that Harriton will have the honor of hosting. If you’re wondering what a dance-a-thon is you’re not alone. Up until the day before I wrote this article I didn’t know either. The way it works is you get someone to sponsor you for dancing for a certain amount of time. For example, you get your relatives to pledge to pay you 10 dollars for every hour you dance. This dance-a-thon is supposed to be slightly different from the traditional version in that there will be a group component in addition to the individual component. Students will be invited to form groups to perform dance routines, such as those the football team performs during pep rallies, and to fundraise for enough money to “buy” a spot. These groups will then put on shows throughout the course of the event. The dance-a-thon take place on February 24th beginning right after school, and all students will be welcome to come watch.
Yet, the dance-a-thon is only one aspect Mr. Klick’s campaign. As someone in the running for LLS’s title “Man of the Year,” Mr. Klick will be engaged in many fundraising activities including revitalizing Harriton’s “Pennies for Patients“ drive. In recent years, this drive, run by the Harriton Service League, has passed by largely unnoticed. However, Mr. Klick hopes to change that this year. Many of us do not know him outside of the context of “teacher”, but Mr. Klick has another identity as a runner, which most of us are aware of, and as a fundraiser, which you may not have known. One reason Mr. Klick was chosen to participate in the “Man of the Year” campaign is because he coaches marathon runners for “Team in Training.” This running team consists of individuals who raise money for the LLS by getting people to sponsor their running. Mr. Klick runs miles to raise money to save lives. Now he’s helping the Harriton community realize the role it can play in accomplishing the same goal.
The student is Austin Wortley; if you haven’t met him, you clearly don’t get out much. Austin is an active member of our Harriton community, from his role in student council to his upcoming participation in “Mr. Harriton.” Last year, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and this year, despite his continuing treatment, Austin has taken on yet another responsibility as a panel member for Mr. Klick. Mr. Wortley will be helping Mr. Klick not only with the Harriton chapter of the campaign but also with the larger campaign as well. A student who continues to give regardless of his personal challenges, Austin is the embodiment of the selfless spirit that Harriton must seek to attain.
Harriton has a lot more seeking to do. We are not exactly a community of do-ers. We don’t attend most sports games, our pep rallies are lacking in enthusiasm, and the donation bins in the front of our school are chillingly empty. In fact, I have seen advisories that don’t bring in food for the single family they need to provide a thanksgiving dinner for. I have been in such an advisory. But maybe we can change. Maybe we can change because now, it’s personal. Maybe we can change for Ms. Barnett and Mr. Fritz and Mr. Klick. For Adam. For Austin. Maybe we can change for everyone we know and for everyone we don’t. People don’t get to go through this life without pain so we have to help each other out. Here at Harriton, we’re not too good at doing that, but maybe we change for one night. Just maybe.