TEMPE — Students at Our Lady of Mount Carmel only slightly dressed up today. Their motive wasn’t candy, rather the cash and hope they could raise for children with cancer — particularly a kindergartener at the school.
The student council organized a Tip Your Hat to Autumn fundraiser in honor of Autumn Chapman, who was diagnosed with leukemia in June. Students paid $1 for the privilege of wearing a hat to school. They raised $400 through the effort. Preschool families and other donors kicked in another $300 with proceeds from a recent Art Walk.
Chapman, 5, plans to use the funds to purchase art supplies and toys for Phoenix Children’s Hospital. She has been a regular patient herself having just finished her third round of chemotherapy.
“She specifically noticed there weren’t any boy toys,” Chapman’s mom, Jacque, noted.
Proceeds from the hat day will change that. Students and staff sported everything from the principal’s “Dallas” cowboy hat to a classmate’s jungle-themed hat — the favorite one she spotted — to knitted and character designs to a fancy sombrero to baseball hats. Chapman’s personal favorite is her own minion hat, which her Dad’s co-worker knitted for her.
“The hardest part in our struggles is not having Autumn here,” her mom said. “It’s such an uplifting place of love and prayer and support.”
Chapman knew of her classmates’ prayer. She hears it when she’s there and gets prayers on her mom’s phone when she’s not. Two days earlier during treatment, their teacher sent a text message and class photo reminding Chapman that Jesus had her wrapped in His arms.
It’s a two-and-a-half-year journey from diagnosis until the end of treatment. Chapman will begin more intense treatment in early November and should return to school on a more regular basis after Christmas break.
Kindergarteners have a tangible reminder when their classmate can’t be there. Diamond, a giant stuffed monkey, sits in Chapman’s seat. The monkey has a backpack to leave encouraging notes for Chapman when she returns.
“For a kid who is battling cancer, she’s here more often than she’s not,” said Shannon David, school nurse and Chapman’s cancer buddy.
That’s important, according to the school nurse who approaching her second anniversary of being diagnosed with breast cancer.
“There’s nothing about cancer that’s normal. She has to have something normal that she knows she’s going to get back to,” David said.
School provides that sense of normalcy and a break for the Chapman family who also has a first-grader at the school and two young girls at home.
The Tip Your Hat to Autumn event deliberately came days shy of her birthday. Chapman had received so many gifts since her diagnosis that the family decided to bring gifts to the hospital as a birthday present.
She’s not the only kindergartner in the Diocese of Phoenix fighting leukemia either. A kindergartner at St. John Bosco in Ahwatukee is too. Team Karing for Karley will join the Light the Night Walk for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in Tempe Nov. 9. Her team is currently No. 3 on the leaderboard of top fundraisers for friends and family teams.
Other Catholic school students found ways to sport a variety of hats, celebrate Halloween and raise funds for worthy causes. Students at St. Louis the King School in Glendale paid $1 to wear a hat Oct. 23. Proceeds supported Cross Catholic Outreach, a ministry that helps students understand the problem of world hunger and whose missions help feed the poor around the world.
Each classroom at St. John Vianney School in Goodyear decorated a pumpkin, which was then donated to Cancer Treatment Center of America. Decorations can be seen by those who follow the school’s Facebook feed.
Donors established a lending iPad library for cancer patients at a children’s hospital in Florida in honor of a 6-year-old cancer survivor. Read article.