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Walnut valley Unified School District

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Changing the Future of Cancer

June 5, 2018

By Kelli Gile, WVUSD Office of Community Resources

Diamond Bar, CA—Last year, when Maple Hill Elementary student Ethan McNeil’s grandfather was diagnosed with bladder cancer, he was compelled to advocate and support others affected with the devastating disease.

With his younger sister Kailyn’s help, 4th grader Ethan organized the Change the Future of Cancer school campaign that brought in $1,500, far beyond his $500 goal, to support the Relay for Life, a community fundraising event of the American Cancer Society.

“I was scared,” reflected Ethan, who is now in 5th grade, about seeing his grandfather going through treatments.

“My grandfather won his battle and is cancer free now,” the 10-year-old happily shared.

But Ethan hasn’t finished with his fight against cancer.

This spring, he decided to ramp up his efforts by recruiting classmates Ivan Rogers, Hayden Toneck, and Silas Swartz, who have all been affected with cancer, to help plan a schoolwide competition.

Students in all 20 classes filled plastic buckets with quarters, dimes, nickels, and pennies for the top prize of a pizza party.

The foursome promoted the campaign by writing and delivering email and phone blasts to parents and by making announcements over the loud speaker.

“Every time we finished we said, ‘Help change the future of cancer,” Ethan explained about the slogan.

The boys also made a color-coded poster to track donations and received over $800 during the first week.

“I was surprised!” Ethan said.

“My dad and I were thinking we should do something,” said Hayden who lost his mother to cancer three years ago.

His father decided to donate $500, Hayden added $500 from his savings account, and his grandparents offered $100.

On May 29, the group proudly served up 18 pizzas to the winning upper and lower grade classrooms.

To date, they have raised $3,286.02 for the cause.

“I was proud to be a part of it,” Ivan shared.

“It makes you feel good to raise money to help.”

Ethan, Silas, Hayden, and Ivan will also be walking and selling homemade items during the Relay for Life of East San Gabriel Valley on Saturday, June 23 at Suzanne Middle School in Walnut.

Online donations can be made to support the Maple Hill – Change the Future of Cancer team at:  https://secure.acsevents.org/site/SPageServer?pagename=relay_donate_now.  

“We are helping change a sickness that kills thousands, even millions of people,” Silas said.

“We’re helping to save lives.”

Principal Kelly Morris described Ethan as compassionate and selfless when she honored him as the school’s Super Star Student during a recent Board of Trustees meeting.

“Gentle souls like Ethan will be the calm force that the world needs to be a better place,” she said.

Shown:

Maple Hill fifth graders Hayden Toneck, Ivan Rogers, Ethan McNeil, and Silas Swartz are raising money for the Relay for Life