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'Where There's Hope...'

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

SLHS students wear their hearts on their sleeves to support teacher Anita Coon in her battle against cancer

Students of high school art teacher Anita Coon are coming together to rally in support of her recovery from pancreatic cancer. Even teenagers who have not taken her classes, and students' families and friends, are joining in the outpouring of support.

Mrs. Coon's illness was diagnosed last month.

On Friday, the words: "There is always hope. Follow your bliss. Where there's hope, there's you" were seen throughout the school in a rainbow of colored t-shirts made available to the students and staff by the Advanced Career Exploration students.

"We sold 426 t-shirts in a matter of one week," said Pegg Havens, advisor for the ACE group. "I think at least 300 of those shirts were purchased by SLHS students and staff. Others were teachers in the district as well as people from Schaller-Crestland (where the teacher is well remembered.) Friends and family of Anita who heard about the shirts also placed orders. When I got an order from outside the school district, it often came with the sentence that Anita was their former teacher.

" Anita has touched many lives in her teaching and performing careers," Havens said.

The t-shirt idea grew out of class discussion for ACE students. Wanting to find a way for the school to show its support, a quick design contest was held, but it proved too difficult to decide on only one design. So Havens and the ACE kids left it up to local artist Joleen Dentlinger who made up the final design using student suggestions and her own ideas.

"I liked the idea of brightly colored shirts as this fits Anita's personality and her love of art," Havens said.

Silk Screen printed the shirts within only a few days and gave them a good price. The shirts were purchased by anyone that wanted one for $8; $3 of that price was donated to the Coons to help with extra expenses related to her cancer treatments.

In addition to the t-shirt sale, approximately $1,000 was raised from a staff dinner held at Embers last month. Students held a dance also last month with proceeds assisting the Coon family.

"I am so overwhelmed,"said Coon. "The cards, posters and emails I have received - it has been an uplifting experience. I feel so encased with love and feel so fortunate. It makes the days go better and lighter."

Coon has been undergoing chemotherapy treatments at the oncology department at the Buena Vista Regional Medical Center every other week. "The people who work in the oncology department are all angels," she said, also praising her doctors.

Coon will undergo three more sessions of treatments and then will head to MD Anderson Clinic in Houston, Texas, where she and husband Jay will meet with doctors who specialize in pancreatic cancer.

Coon said she has "good days" where she is able to get up and go out for short periods of time but she does spend a great deal of time resting.

Where there's hope....



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