April 03. 2015 12:00AM
Raceland students support cancer patients
By Katina A. Gaudet South Lafourche Bureau
Students gather around Shawn Whitt as others take turns trying to dunk the Raceland Middle School teacher. The event was one of many at the school’s student-initiated benefit Friday to help raise money for local cancer patients.
RACELAND — From the highway, motorists would not have guessed any unusual goings-on at Raceland Middle School.
But the school’s back yard was teeming with students who, if not for a significant event at the school, would otherwise be in class.
On Friday afternoon, they were allowed a little relaxation in the sun — all for a good cause.
Students, faculty and staff at Raceland Middle have joined forces to conduct a fund-raiser for a local cancer program that helps patients pay for expenses. School representatives hope to raise between $3,000 to $4,000.
The idea began after students in Tammy Autin’s homeroom viewed a morning news program that detailed efforts to immunize children in Africa against measles. That led students to look to their own abilities to help others.
“We decided we never do anything to anybody, so we decided we were going to do something fund and help fight cancer,” said Ryan LeBoeuf, 14, an eighth-grader from Raceland.
Students did not have to look too far from home for inspiration when deciding what their program would benefit.
Two of the school’s faculty members, Drue Uzee and Elnora Tate-Wright, have been diagnosed with cancer. That left students wanting to do something that would not only honor their teachers, but also help others like them who are fighting the illness.
Students quickly found an ally in their teacher, who found that one flyer placed in the teachers’ lounge had quickly transformed a classroom project into a schoolwide function.
“It blossomed from there,” Autin said. “The whole faculty and administration has been absolutely wonderful. They’ve all been very supportive.”
Travis Chauvin, 14, also an eighth-grader from Bayou Blue, agreed.
“We were pretty much the first class to get involved, but after a few days, it just came together,” said Chauvin. “We thought it would be fun for everybody to be out here and have a good time.”
Despite the fun students experienced from dunking teachers in water, tossing water balloons at one another and riding in a cart pulled by a miniature horse, they say they have not lost sight of the event’s primary purpose.
“It was all for a good cause,” said Chauvin.
To raise money to benefit cancer patients, students not only solicited donations and help from community members in organizing the event, they also bought tickets to participate in the events offered Friday.
Tate-Wright, a HOSTS language teacher who was diagnosed with rectal cancer in July, walked the school grounds Friday as students took part in the festivities, hugging those that approached her. Although in remission, she is still in treatment.
Doctors believe that job stress could exacerbate her condition, so she is not teaching this year. Though she was eager to return to her classroom and her students, Tate-Wright heeded the medical advice.
But she was grateful for the opportunity to visit the school she has commuted to each day from New Orleans for the past five years and its students. Dedication of their efforts to her and Uzee was gratifying.
“It’s just a blessing,” said Tate-Wright. “I felt like they were giving me flowers.”
School faculty hope that the initiative and caring shown by students will also do much for the school’s reputation.
“It shows that the Raceland family really does come together,” said Tate-Wright. “Sometimes we get so much negative publicity, but people don’t really see the inside.”
Students, too, hope the event will leave a lasting impression on members of the community not intimately familiar with Raceland Middle.
“We may be small, and you may not hear about us, but we do care,” said LeBoeuf.
Katina A. Gaudet can be reached at 693-6319 or 448-7614 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.