Melanoma, lung cancer, prostate cancer, breast cancer. These are just some of the diseases that will be highlighted during Millbrook’s annual Millbrook VS Cancer Week.
The week was organized by PE teachers Ms. Sanders and Ms. Madden, marketing teacher Ms. Keeler, and librarian Ms. Carmichael, who was unavailable for comment. All of the teachers interviewed have been impacted by cancer in some way. The group has met regularly to organize the week’s events, including the Evening of Hope, the Carnation Ceremony, the raffles, and hall decorating. Students are able to contribute to the cause of defeating cancer by entering in the raffle and inviting people who are survivors or are currently fighting cancer to the Carnation Ceremony, according to Ms. Madden. According to Ms. Keeler, the money raised will be donated to Blue Ridge Hospice. Ms. Sanders said that she is particularly proud of their ability to keep the money local.
Marketing teacher Ms. Keeler lost her grandmother to breast cancer, but her father has survived multiple melanoma. “He should have only survived two to five years, and he’s on his tenth year,” she said. Her favorite event of the week is the Evening of Hope, a coffeehouse styled recital of music and poetry. “We get to see tons of Millbrook talent and it’s a very nice night to just come together as a community and then we let off the lanterns… to see them go across the sky, it’s a really pretty sight,” Ms. Keeler explained. Her job in organizing the week has been coordinating with Millbrook’s clubs and the hall decorating. She has also collaborated with the group on this year’s T-shirt design and informing the school of the events.\
PE teacher Ms. Madden, whose mother passed away from cancer early in her teaching career, said that she always looks forward to how the whole school is able to get involved in the week’s events. “We do so many activities that it gives the athletes, the kids who are in music, everyone a chance to participate,” she explained. Her favorite events of the week are the Carnation Ceremony, where survivors of cancer or people who are currently fighting cancer will be recognized by being given a carnation before the girls’ basketball game, as well as the Evening of Hope. “This week, I haven’t done much,” Ms. Madden said, “next week, I’ll be helping out with the carnival in the gym and with the coffeehouse.” However, she said that her main job was to be Ms. Sander’s “run-around.” She said, “I am just helping out Ms. Sanders with whatever she needs, she’s really the mastermind behind it.” She hopes that their “promoting it earlier” as well as including all cancers and not just breast cancer has improved Millbrook VS Cancer Week.
PE teacher Ms. Sanders, whose parents are both survivors of cancer, never said that she was the leader of the project, and made note of the many staff members who have helped her and her team to organize this year’s Millbrook VS Cancer Week. “I get with Ms. Keeler and we talk about the activities, [I work with] Ms. Carmichael [about] setting up the baskets. Ms. Martin does a tremendous job with getting us publicity, Ms. Madden and I go and talk with the MPAA about their assistance, and Mr. Kelly, of course, does a tremendous job with helping us with the coffeehouse,” she said. She also said that the biggest improvement from the past eleven years has been expanding Millbrook’s Go Pink Week to include all cancers, which was inspired by wanting to support the students and staff members who were suffering from many different types of cancers. “The pink emphasis [for breast cancer] is still on there, because that’s how we started, but now we’re incorporating all the ribbons and all the various types,” Ms. Sanders explained.
In previous years, Millbrook has supported several students and their families during the festivities. “Every year there’s somebody special… Last year, we had a special dedication with Paloma, Haley MacDonald’s little sister,” Ms. Sanders said. Ms. Keeler also said that a former student, Mackenzie Rice, who suffered from Leukemia while at Millbrook, survived and came back to visit with her two kids. However, there is a staff member, who will remain anonymous, that will need support during this week, who has been a “second mom” to Ms. Madden. She said, “She just recently had a surgery, she’s going back in there to figure out what to do from there, but she’s doing well right now. She’s in good spirits.”