This month’s Mercer Savings Bank Giving Mission recipient is the Celina Middle School’s Relay for Life.
One of hundreds of Relay events that take place throughout the country each year, the CMS event is special because it involves the hard work and support of middle school students and staff.
Getting Started with the Relay for Life
Relay for Life is an event of the American Cancer Society. Groups across the country fundraise and plan in different ways, but ultimately put on a community event in which participants walk, raise money for cancer research, and honor those who have battled cancer.
Celina Middle School’s event started small in 2001, when the school raised money in honor of several staff members who had cancer at the time. The money went to the larger Mercer County Relay for Life group. In just a few years, the middle school became the largest donor to the county event, so they decided to start their own.
Since 2004, the middle school has held a yearly event, with students putting in hours of work and raising money throughout the year before the Relay is held in the spring.
There, survivors are recognized and students and community members walk to remember those who have battled cancer. Until her passing from cancer in 2020, former CMS principal and Relay for Life advocate Ann Esselstein also spoke at the event each year.
Teaching Service, Making a Difference
Tammy Cisco, one of the Relay committee members at the middle school, explained the work that students put in throughout the year to raise money and awareness.
“It’s a way for them to know that the little things they do – even though they’re 12 and 13 and 14 years old — can make a big difference,” said Cisco. “And those little things they do throughout the school year end up being this big accomplishment that we celebrate at the [event] in May.”
How do students raise money? Nearly anything goes.
“What the kids do all year is just anything you could dream of that’s appropriate,” said Cisco. “These kids have done car washes, they do bake sales. Or they just go get two boxes of donuts and sell them before school. We also have our talent night coming up…and it’s one of our bigger events.”
While no one is required to participate, the students enjoy the challenge and coming up with creative ideas, Cisco said. Since the inception of the program, the group has raised $280,000 and counting.
Beyond fundraising and awareness, the Relay event also serves as a real-life example for classwork and learning opportunities, from learning to write letters requesting donations to improving public speaking skills.
“It also has a meaning for a lot of the kids. There’s rarely a kid who hasn’t been affected by cancer,” said Cisco. “Those people are always touched and we get so much positive feedback from the community, especially the survivors after they experienced it.
“It’s just the little things that [make you say] okay, all of that was worth it. This gives students the chance to show what they can do,” she said.
Cisco said she was surprised but grateful when she learned of the Mercer Savings Bank Giving Mission donation.
“I appreciate whoever nominated us and thought of us. The kids deserve it, so it’s nice that somebody noticed,” she said.
If you’re interested in helping the CMS Relay for Life reach their annual goal of $10,000 raised, or to learn more about the event, contact Tammy Cisco at firstname.lastname@example.org.