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Home / Neighborhood / San Gabriel Valley / Arcadia Weekly / First Avenue School 6th Graders Start Cancer Awareness Club

First Avenue School 6th Graders Start Cancer Awareness Club

by Terry Miller
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Emily Quach 12, Deniece Caraballo, 11, Victoria Medina, 11, Pauline Tjhin, 12, Christine Back 11, and William Zhang, 11 are the core members of First Avenue School’s Cancer Awareness Club. –Photos by Terry Miller

By Terry Miller
Sixth grade First Avenue Science teacher, Doug Townsend, attended a Relay For Life kickoff party for the Arcadia Relay in January. Aside from getting personally involved in the community event held each summer to raise funds for cancer research, Townsend did something a little extra this year.
He noticed the handmade piggy banks which adorned each table and after checking with event chairman Carter Spruill, he brought one back to his classroom hoping to spark a little extra interest in his classroom about the American Cancer Society and the purpose of Relay for Life.
What happened next is something quite extraordinary, according to Townsend. “The kids just ran with the idea when I told them how and where the money would be used! It is all them, their enthusiasm and energy is electric,” said the 10-year teaching veteran when we visited his classroom Tuesday.
According to her classmates, one student – Samanta Beltrran, 12 – took it upon herself to really get the ball rolling. Samantha said her grandmother has cancer and she “really wanted to help raise some money for the cancer society to help with research and to find a cure.” “I knew it was really important and I wanted to help.” Beltran added with a huge, highly infectious grin on her face.
The students were concerned why First Avenue wasn’t involved in the Relay for Life when other schools such as Arcadia High, for example, which already has a history with Relay for Life with their fundraising club – Hope Can Cure Cancer, is always involved.
While these young people may have somewhat less life experience than the organizers of the Relay for Life, their combined boundless energies went into overdrive in their school and community and are well on the way to making history within their school. The students also got a petition together requesting that the staff at First Aveune get involved.
Spearheaded by Samanatha, fellow students in her science class quickly joined forces: Alas, the nucleus of the First Avenue Cancer Awareness Club was born. The core founders consists of: Emily Quach 12, Deniece Caraballo, 11, Victoria Medina, 11, Pauline Tjhin, 12, Christine Back 11, and William Zhang, 11. The club is fully functional as of this Thursday.
During the first week in which the piggy bank appeared in Mr., Townsend’s classroom, the founding members raised over $260. The second week $165, and in the third week, $124. The fundraising continues as Samantha Beltran took her piggy bank around her neighborhood and collected from her neighbors.

Thus far the students have raised nearly $600. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The young fundraisers (again spurned by Samantha Beltran) have collected stuffed toys which other students can purchase with the funds earmarked for Relay for Life.
Samantha and her colleagues opened a giant garbage bag full of virtually new, plush stuffed animals Tuesday that the pupils have brought in to help raise funds. This is just one of many ideas the young club has.
Last year, Arcadia Relay for Life raised over $115,000 for research and this year, organizers hope to get near the $150,000 mark.
Already in its ninth year, Arcadia’s Relay for Life will be held in June and once again at the Santa Anita Race Track infield.
What will happen next with the students fundraising efforts remains to be seen but we feel confident that the energy and enthusiasm of a few very special students will have a huge impact on the lives of those afflicted with cancer and the families of those caring for those in need.
“It’s really heartwarming,” said Doug Townsend when he described his “lack of involvement” in the project. “It is all the kids’ idea, they’ll now make it official electing officers etc. It’s very exciting to see the energy and passion these sixth graders have.” Townsend said with a confident smile of approval as he watched his students count the latest round of cash collected.
If you’d like to help First Avenue School reach their goal of raising over $1000 contact: dtownsend@ausd.net. If you’d like to get more information about the Relay for Life in your neighborhood contact Carter Spruill at (323)309-3954.

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