Something special happens each month at Oakwood Elementary School: 5th grade classes led by Mrs. Schroeder and Mrs. Marsman celebrate a theme day together. Together, they take time to plan activities and run stations that encourage the group to dive deeper into the theme.
This month’s theme day was all about Cancer Awareness, something that strikes close to home at Oakwood. Aside from the many personal family connections that our students have, they also have a classroom connection to cancer in Mrs. Vicki Gravelyn, a 4th grade teacher who is also a seven year breast cancer survivor.
Mrs. Gravelyn was in just her third year of teaching at Oakwood when she received the diagnosis that would change her life–at only 37 years of age.
Drawing from her experience, Mrs. Gravelyn shared her personal cancer journey with APS fifth-graders, ending with a challenge to live life purposefully.
As she tells it, despite a difficult year of chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, and a full year of weekly Herseptin treatments, Vicki drew strength from the Allendale community who offered a level of support and camaraderie unlike any she had known before.
“I was embraced like I had been here forever,” she shared with emotion. “This is an awesome community.”
The fifth graders at Oakwood proved her right this month when they decided to sell pink cancer awareness bracelets for $1 each as part of their project. When everything was totaled, our students raised over $300 for the American Cancer Society!
Students also moved between stations that gave them opportunities to continue to ponder the effects of cancer:
- A bracelet-making station where a bead was added to represent a life that has been touched by cancer.
- A card-making station where students made cards for oncology patients at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital.
- A luminary-making station where luminaries were decorated in honor of a life touched by cancer.
In addition to these activities and the wonderful demonstration of financial support, students took a slip of paper and wrote the name of someone they knew who has cancer, who is a survivor, or who has lost their battle with the disease. At the end of the theme day, students returned to a gymnasium that was illumined only by student-made luminaries while the submitted names were compiled into a slide show that played for all to see.
The day was a wonderful reminder of the caring community we’re all fortunate to be a part of. Kudos to our fifth grade teachers, students, and Mrs. Gravelyn for contributing to a terrific day!