In the last days of school, Angela Taggart’s Head Start class of 15 four year old students at North Early Learning Center enjoyed a special treat at lunchtime: pizza, delivered.

The class was excited to earn the tasty and special lunch, but they were also excited to bring in extra change when North ELC teachers invited them to participate in Relay for Life, a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Lisa Huckaby, a cancer survivor, captained the NELC Pink Ladies.

She said, “We sent home a letter saying that some of our staff members had been diagnosed with cancer during the summer of ’08 and that we would like to participate in and raise money for Relay for Life. We asked families to send loose change to school.”

The students collected change for about two weeks, dropping coins in clear plastic jars in their classroom. 

They enjoyed watching their coin collections grow, their teachers said.

Collectively, they brought in $931.50.

“I’m just really proud of our kids. They raised almost $1000 by basically just bringing in loose change. One class raised $230, another raised over $100. Fourteen classes participated as well as the front office,” Huckaby said.

Taggart’s class won the friendly fundraising contest between classes by bringing in $231.18.

One student, Samantha Humberson, brought in over $70 in change.

“Samantha’s grandfather died of cancer two years ago and she wanted to share the money she had in her piggy bank to help find a cure,” Taggart said.

Humberson’s contribution, while larger than most, illustrated the eagerness and willingness of the students and their families to give, even as families cope with the nation’s economic crisis.

This was North ELC’s first year to participate in Orange County’s Relay for Life.

“We only have 65 members on our staff. Almost half, 29, joined the team,” Huckaby said.

Other staff members were already on other Relay for Life teams.

“The faculty and staff of North Early Learning Center are truly a family. They laugh together and cry together; they have fun together and work hard together. The Relay for Life event was especially poignant as it demonstrated North Early Learning Center working together at their best in honor of the campus’s beloved leader, Mrs. Sheila Perry who recently succumbed to cancer. She was truly North’s hero,” Paul A. Hardin, North ELC Acting Principal, said.

The NELC Pink Ladies and students raised $5300 for the Orange County Relay. The all night event, held May 1, personally touched them.

“I don’t really think that we really knew what to expect. It was very emotional. And, it exceeded all of our expectations. It was very nice to see people in support of raising awareness. We are already looking forward to next year,” Huckaby said.