How Schools and Health Organizations Can Raise Cancer Awareness Together

The National Cancer Survivors Day Foundation estimates that by 2026, more than 20 million people will be living with cancer or be survivors of cancer. While we frequently talk about dealing with a diagnosis, what it takes to beat the odds, and how to support a friend or family member with a cancer diagnosis, we rarely bring children into those discussions.

Rocks made by both Newburyport Medical centers and Molin Upper School students (Courtesy Photo)

In Massachusetts, a fourth grade class joined a local hospital to celebrate survivors by painting rocks in honor of their journeys. That got us thinking: What better place to start teaching empathy, awareness, and compassion about cancer than in the classroom?

Cancer can change a child’s life just as drastically as it can change an adult’s. The disease should be discussed, not avoided, with our youngest generation. The classroom is a natural learning environment — what better place for health organizations to teach kids about cancer awareness? In the process, you’ll be teaching them to be empathetic and motivated to help a cause they’re passionate about.

Here are just three ways your organization can get involved with local schools and use the classroom as a catalyst for cancer awareness:

  1. Give your fundraiser a shareable theme.

Come up with your own unique spin on a fundraising event. For example, SportClips partners with St. Baldrick’s Foundation to host hundreds of events at schools and churches in which they raise money based on the number of people who shave their head. Giving your fundraiser a fun angle and hashtag generates more interest and results in photo ops people love to share on social media.

Another great example? The Mini-THONS hosted by Four Diamonds, an organization dedicated to pediatric cancer. These are student-hosted events that include dancing, games, sports, music, and more. With the help of 90,000 student volunteers, the organization has been able to pay for 100 percent of treatment costs for childhood cancer patients at PennState Health Children’s Hospital. If your organization can come up with a creative idea (like a carnival-style fundraising marathon), the kids can help it take off.

  1. Connect the cause to the curriculum.

Of course, to truly connect with the people in the classroom, it’s not enough to just host a fundraiser; think about the educational opportunities you have to offer teachers and schools as well. For example, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Student Series partners with schools to offer free STEM curriculum in return for hosting a fundraiser down the road (something an outside organization can easily help with if it follows tip No. 1). The American Cancer Society also offers cancer education programs, including anti-tobacco education and information on nutrition and lifestyle choices that can reduce risk factors.

St. Jude Children’s Hospital, one of the nation’s leading treatment centers for pediatric cancers, does a lot of educational fundraising through school communities. Trike-A-Thon teaches preschool students about bike safety and the importance of helping others, while St. Jude Heroes, a K-5 character-building program, helps students develop healthy fitness habits while they learn what it takes to “be a hero.”

  1. Connect directly with children who have been given a cancer diagnosis.

One organization leading the way in cancer awareness among children is Monkey in My Chair. This nonprofit, started by teachers and a mom in memory of a young girl from Kansas, Chloe Watson Feyerherm, provides kits to help children diagnosed with cancer. The kits include a stuffed monkey that sits in the child’s seat at school when he or she can’t be there and a book that helps teachers explain the situation to classmates. It also comes with an online element that makes it easy for the school to share lesson plans, pictures, and classwork with the children’s family.

While it’s no cure for cancer, connecting with educators and their students is a great way to help the community while also teaching kids about the importance of compassion and helping others. And really, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Want to learn how to connect with teachers to build awareness of your corporate cause? Read my previous post, “Have a Corporate Cause? 3 Strategies for Teaming Up With Teachers.”