It is said that some people come into our lives and quickly go while some stay for awhile and leave footprints on our hearts.
This past Wednesday, at Keaau Elementary School, students and teachers alike were introduced to how footprints can be so powerful that they change our lives forever.
At the start of 2012 the faculty, staff and students of KES lost their longtime SASA, Jayson Correa, to cancer.
“Mr. Correa was at the school for about 20 years,” Teacher Maile Bellosi said. “He struggled with his disease privately and painfully for the last several years.”
His death was devastating for the staff members of the school, many of whom had worked with him for over 15 years.
“As our SASA (school administrative services assistant) he was an integral part of our school’s functionality,” Bellosi said. “He was the guy we had to rely on for everything important.”
To commemorate Jayson Correa’s legacy at Keaau Elementary the faculty, students and staff were collecting donations for the American Cancer Society through a variety of activities such as Relay Recess and other on campus activities.
Correa’s parents and other relatives were in attendance and his nephew; Nathanuel Chow-Guzman, a 4th grader, single handedly raised the most money for the Cancer Society.
“I collected $331 in Uncle’s memory,” Chow-Guzman said. “I was very sad when uncle died and today we are doing different things to remember him. I did a one mile run and thought about him the entire way.”
Everywhere on the KES campus that I looked, on every classroom door, there were cut out footprints with names on them.
“The students, staff and families were all given footprint cutouts on which a name of a loved one who is battling, has beaten, or has succumbed to cancer, is written,” Bellosi explained. “These feet were put up on all the bulletin boards around campus to help students understand that cancer is an ‘equalizer,’ something we all have dealt/deal with in our families.
The day that I was on campus was the culmination of health and wellness lessons that went from March 19 to April 10 in which teachers provided a large set of health and wellness lessons with the idea of conveying a message that lifestyle choices can help lessen the likelihood of cancer and other diseases afflicting them.
The last day of the lesson was called ‘Kukini no ke Ola’ or Run for Life/Messengers for Life.
“We know we can reach our families and the extended community through the education of their children,” Bellosi said.
Through collaborative effort students from Kamehameha and Keaau High along with community organizations from Hilo Medical Center, Bay Clinic and the American Red Cross a health fair was organized with a variety of learning activities.
“Students rotated through the health fair over a 45 minute period,” Bellosi said. “We want them to see the value of a healthy, drug free lifestyle and hopefully leave a footprint in their lives by doing so.”
After the Health Fair Bellosi and her colleagues lead the students on a one mile run around campus.
“The run is free,” Bellosi said. “I got Road ID to donate 900 running numbers and we borrowed a timing clock from the Athletic Department at Kamehameha Schools.
Bellosi measured out a course in three rounds for all kids, pre-kindergarten, through 5th grade plus all the staff.
The cafeteria staff provided fresh fruit at the conclusion and a DJ was on hand, donating his time and expertise, to pump up the participants on the course and around the finish line area.
“My mom has a rare cancer and needed surgery three times,” said 5th grader Maya Rosof.
Rosof didn’t know the name of her mother’s cancer but pointed to the location which is in the neck under her right ear.
“It was definitely scary and I was freaking out when I heard the news.” she said. “My mom had to go to a hospital in San Francisco and I was really afraid.”
Rosof also spoke of all the things she was learning that day which included trying to stay healthy and fit by running or walking and eating the right foods.
“I am worried about cancer and how it might affect me someday,” Rosof said. “But I want to learn more and be able to help others with cancer someday.”
I was impressed with the more than 800 students in red shirts and nearly 100 staff members that participated in the one mile run/walk event.
Everyone connected to the KES family was out and moving in a variety of activities from Zumba, to soccer drills, balancing games and more, much, much, more.
“Everything we have used today was donated by community groups or individuals,” Bellosi said. “Our donations came from the public and from friends and family as well as from our coordinating staff made up of Iwalani Harris, Elaine Lu, Keone Farias and myself.”
On a bulletin board outside of Bellosi’s office was a footprint with the name of her sister.
“I watched my sister battle through Stage 4 kidney cancer and she has run the Honolulu Marathon twice since,” Bellosi said. “God Bless all those battling cancer.”
And someday should you happen to see a slow moving jogger refusing to stop exercising while battling cancer remember to smile, say “woof” and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”