Walk for Wellness to raise funds for students battling cancer

May 12, 2006|by JANET HEIM

WILLIAMSPORT - The Williamsport High School track will be a destination for people of all athletic abilities on Saturday, when the power of the heart will mean more than the participants' speed.

Instead of athletes competing against each other, those on the track will be part of a team effort to raise money for the families of two Williamsport High School students who are fighting cancer - senior Collin Jackson, son of Larry and Glenda Jackson of Boonsboro, and sophomore Eugene Harris, son of Ted and JoEllen Harris of Pinesburg.

The Walk for Wellness, a brainchild of the school's National Honor Society, will feature a Walk-a-Thon from 2 to 5 p.m., followed by a luau with music, refreshments and games until sundown. The rain date is Saturday, May 20.

The school's Blue Band, in which Collin plays a tuba and sousaphone, already had held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the Jackson family. Sarah Tritsch, president of the honor society, said the group also wanted to do a fundraiser.


When the group learned from Principal John Davidson that Eugene also was battling cancer, they decided the fundraiser should benefit both families.

"We wanted to do something different than the band. The Walk for Wellness is based on Relay for Life," Sarah said. "Hopefully, it will make a significant difference."

Collin hasn't attended classes all school year as he makes weekly trips to the University of Maryland Hospital in Baltimore for treatment of acute lymphoblastic leukemia, a cancer of the white blood cells. His doctors worked hard to get his blood counts to levels so he could attend last Saturday's prom, his first time in public with his classmates since his diagnosis in September 2005.

His mother, Glenda Jackson, said Collin's treatments are going well, and that he has a "very good prognosis right now," despite some scary moments with spinal leaks and infections.

"I can't go on about how great these kids are," said Jackson, who added that it isn't just Williamsport students, but also students from other schools such as South Hagerstown High School who have been a lifeline for Collin.

She said Collin has been working with tutor Patty Felix, who is a cancer survivor herself. He wants to study for the ministry at Messiah College, but because of his illness, won't be able to start in the fall and has missed out on scholarship opportunities.

"We thank God every day we have friends," Glenda Jackson said. "This was a real eye-opener. We're forever changed."

Eugene was diagnosed with chronic myelogenous leukemia, a malignant cancer of the bone marrow, in January, and has been tutored at home since. He receives regular treatments at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, and is scheduled to have a bone marrow transplant in July, JoEllen Harris said.

"I was very touched," Harris said of the Walk for Wellness. "It's nice to know the community cares, and was willing to help both Eugene and Collin."

Participants are asked to collect donations on sponsor sheets available at the high school and turn the proceeds in the day of the event.

For more information, call Debra Tabler at Williamsport High School at 301-766-8423.

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