When nearly 500 students and teachers hustle through the streets of Roselle this Friday, they'll be honoring a woman who continues to teach them even after she's gone.
Spring Hills Elementary School in Roselle will host a cancer awareness fundraiser walk on May 14 in memory of Darlene Fraser, a former third-grade teacher at Spring Hills who succumbed to breast cancer early this year.
Spring Hills Principal Scott Kaese said it is important for the school community to turn its loss into a "teachable experience" and a positive outlet for grief.
"We thought it was important to talk about this since, during the time after Darlene passed away, students saw that people were sad, even their teachers," Kaese said. "Everyone wanted to do something and this fundraiser is how we decided we were ready. We felt it could symbolize the whole community coming together around a common cause."
For about one month, students in kindergarten through fifth grade have been gathering donations from friends, family and community members. The ultimate goal was to raise $15,000 to benefit the American Cancer Society and the Receptions for Research Foundation, which was created by Chicago Bear Greg Olsen. Olsen is scheduled to attend Friday's fundraiser, school officials said.
Kaese said he was skeptical about whether the children would meet the goal on the school's first try at a major fundraiser, so the staff set up incentives. Students earned various privileges as they hit fundraising milestones, including a pajama day, a movie day and a teacher swap day that included Kaese stepping in to teach first grade for a school day, while the first-grade teacher took on his principal duties.
But the ultimate prize, if the students raised $15,000, would be for them to banish Kaese to the school's roof for a day. And the principal is happy to announce that on Monday, May 17, he'll be climbing up there to keep his end of the bargain.
"We never expected them to achieve this and they are all excited," Kaese said. "I was amazed at just the support from the kids and how much they understood what they were doing. We wanted them to use this experience as a teachable experience, to have them become active members of the society."
Because this event is Spring Hills' first attempt at a major fundraiser - and because it was created to memorialize Fraser - school officials suspect it might become a tradition. Kaese said the charities or the fundraising modes could change in the future, but he is pleased to see how an experience like this can benefit students.
"This has really emphasized the social and emotional component of learning," he said.