The Grade 2 class of Glenbow Elementary School wants to 'Share the Love' with those affected by cancer.
Teacher Jessica Powers and one of her students, Ella Reimer, are both cancer survivors.
"We took a vote on the name of our project and thought 'Share the Love' was the most fitting," said Powers. "Ella and I have talked about how when we both had cancer, that people gave us a lot of love."
Now, she added, the class feels it's important to extend that same support to others battling the disease.
The students are selling cards with heart designs, and also as part of the project, Ella will be cutting 12 inches of her teacher's hair to be made into a wig. The hair donation, all of the proceeds from the cards, and the funds they've raised online, will go to Kids Cancer Care and the Alberta Cancer Foundation.
"Last year I actually was coming back from breast cancer and the Grade 1 class was neighbouring my classroom, and so [Ella] and I formed a little connection talking about cancer and surgeries and scars," said Powers. "I was really happy when I found out she was in my classes this year and we'd already kind of formed that connection."
Powers, who had thyroid cancer in 2008 and recovered, was also diagnosed with breast cancer in 2020.
"I stopped cutting my hair because I thought, if I need chemo, I'm not cutting it," she said. "I'll shave it if I need to."
Powers underwent a mastectomy, went into remission, and did not end up needing chemo, so she kept her hair — and it just kept on growing without her being able to see a hairstylist during the pandemic.
"I thought I would like to donate my hair and I definitely want to do something to give back to the Alberta Cancer Foundation who've helped me," she said. "I knew that Ella and her family also give back to Kids Cancer Care, so I thought it was good fit in that we both wanted to give back to the organizations that helped us."
Ella, 7, was diagnosed with brain cancer at two-and-a-half years old and has had nine surgeries and two different types of chemotherapy to treat it.
"It breaks your heart as a parent to see your kid go through anything like that," said mom Christie. "Each surgery was harder and harder learning all these things about her cancer and each chemo session made her sicker and sicker."
Ella's condition is now considered stable but the form of brain cancer that she has is incurable with modern day medicine, due to the inability to remove all of her tumour.
Last year, the young girl — who her mom says was born with an entrepreneurial spirit — made wooden round ornaments to sell at Christmas time, one of which was bought by Powers. She donated about $350 of the sales to Kid Cancer Care.
"She always finds a way to give back somewhere," said Christie. "She's also shovelled driveways for Kids Cancer Care."
Christie said she has been blown away by the support from Ella's entire Grade 2 class, who have thrown all their weight behind her and their teacher in the 'Share the Love' project.
It wasn't long after the class spoke about the project — before it had even started — that students were bringing in toonies and asking if they too, could shovel driveways to help raise money.
"I think this project also speaks volumes to who Mrs. Powers is as a person," said Christie. "She wants to give back and include Ella while also supporting the foundation that's helped her.
"This is a project that is bringing a community together," she added. "Usually you don't read or know about these foundations unless you have personally been affected by cancer. This is like putting faces to the names of those organizations and it's a great way to get that awareness out to people."
The cards can be ordered directly through SchoolCash Online via the school's website. It is a secure payment system only available to those who work or have students there, or who are in some way officially tied to the Glenbow Elementary community.
Powers will also be accepting orders through email at [email protected] from those who are unable to use the school's online payment function.
The cards come in a set of five and are selling for $10. They must be purchased before Feb. 14, when the print order will be sent, and they are expected to arrive for distribution in the days leading up to Ella cutting Powers hair in their Grade 2 class, March 14.
Donations are also being accepted through an online fundraising tool until March 31, where the class has so far raised double the amount of their $1,000 goal.