BY MIKE JAMES
THE DAILY INDEPENDENT
FLATWOODS A Russell Middle School community service project to assist cancer patients owes its success in part to an expert adviser.
Students throughout the school have been collecting and bagging items to help patients while away the time during chemotherapy treatments — snacks, puzzle books and the like.
Knowing what to bring for the chemo bags was made easier by seventh- grade math teacher Kim Blanton, who is fighting breast cancer and has spent her share of afternoons slumped in a recliner with powerful chemotherapy drugs dripping into her veins.
She knows from experience how trifles like a crossword puzzle book or a tube of hand lotion or a package of crackers can ease the stress and discomfort.
She recalls the anonymous benefactors who would quietly stop by and drop off trifles calculated to make a bad day a little less bad.
“The little things made such a difference — like a little pillow to lean on at times when you don’t feel so hot. People would just come in with little things,” she said.
So in October, when the 500 or so students at RMS launched the drive, she was ready with a list of suggestions: socks, hats, tissues, crackers, lip balm, lotion, colored pencils, puzzle books, scarves and gloves and a few kid-friendly items like coloring books.
Hats, gloves and scarves are welcome because patients in chemotherapy sometimes are more sensitive to cold. Lotions help with dry skin — also a typical side effect. Books and puzzles relieve the drudgery of being tethered to an IV line for hours.
“We tried to get them stuff that would make them feel loved and happy and get their minds off what they’re doing,” said Rylie Patrick, an eighth-grade BETA club member.
The three grades made it a competition. Their goal was 500 items; they have gathered about 2,200, enough for 200 bags. The bags are ready for delivery to Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, King’s Daughters Medical Center and Cabell Huntington Hospital, where they will be presented as needed to patients.
Blanton hopes to get permission to take some of the students along when distributing the bags. Spearheading the drive were students in the Kentucky Youth Assembly and BETA Club.
“They love to compete, but you could see they really want to help,” Blanton said. “I think kids, in general, want to help. They want to be part of something that’s larger than themselves.”
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