A-A rallies for a teacher battling cancer

Friday, January 25, 2019
Teacher and former wrestling and football coach BJ Stevicks, center of the middle row, is finding a swell of support from his school district after a pancreatic cancer diagnosis last month. / Photo Submitted

Alta-Aurelia Community School District is rallying to raise funds and spirits for long-time teacher BJ Stevicks after a recent cancer diagnosis.

Stevicks, an industrial tech teacher for 27 years who has coached football and wrestling, received his pancreatic cancer diagnosis last month.

He started chemo therapy this week, and will continue to work through his treatment, said high school secretary Shawna Hilsabeck, who has been helping organize the outreach. He will also find out what stage of progression he is in.

In addition to a Community Impact fundraiser that was held at Pizza Ranch this week, the group is organizing a dinner and silent auction on February 17 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Alta Elementary cafeteria.

Auction bidding will end at 1 p.m.; winners may pick up their items at 1:30.

Hilsabeck said the number of people helping with the effort was more than she was able to count—a sign of how loved the veteran teacher is.

They’re trying to raise as much as they’re able to for healthcare-related expenses as Stevicks travels back and forth from Omaha for treatment.

“He’s just a fun-loving guy, always with a smile or a joke to tell you,” the secretary said of why he’s been a joy to work with for decades in the district.

“He just made learning fun,” said Elizabeth Peterson, an elementary art teacher who had Stevicks as a social studies teacher in the late 90s.

“He was one of the first teachers to have us doing video projects. I remember him just loving his job and always saying teaching was what he loved to do,” she said. “He always had a smile.”

Those who cannot attend the February fundraiser can donate to a fund set up at United Bank of Iowa at 1270 Lake Avenue in Storm Lake. Those wishing to donate should ask for the “BJ Stevicks benefit fund.”

Pancreatic cancer has the highest mortality rate of all major cancers, with a 9 percent five-year survival rate, according to the Hirschberg Foundation for Pancreatic Cancer Research.