Harker Heights Elementary School

Students and staff at Harker Heights Elementary School tie purple balloons to the school fence March 28 to celebrate their successful campaign, raising more than $5,900 for blood cancer research in honor of a sibling of two current students.

While Harker Heights Elementary School principal Carolyn Dugger stalled for time, her office staff continued to count the stacks of pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters.

Finally, while the celebration assembly was under way, Leukemia and Lymphoma Society representative Laura Mills scrawled out $5,321 on the large display check.

That’s the total the school’s 742 students collected for the charity that funds research into various blood cancers, in memory of 4-year-old Terrance Hunter, who died in January 2012 from acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

By the end of the ceremony and after students tied purple balloons to the fence outside their school and wrote messages on the sidewalk, there was a new total.

At last count, the office staff reported the school raised $5,940.

The numbers were merely the framing for the more solid lessons students learned and taught about compassion and generosity.

Diana Hunter, her 9-year-old son Keith Hunter and 10-year-old daughter Sariah Hunter wore blue shirts in honor of their son and brother.

Expressing gratitude, Diana Hunter acknowledged her family has been through a trying time and her children’s school and specific staff members reached out to her family. “It’s been exciting,” she said of the fundraising effort. “The school has been very supportive. It’s exciting to see my kids do something for their brother.”

At the end of February, Sariah Hunter decorated a box and began collecting donations for the Leukemia Society in honor of her brother.

Her mother said the school’s Student Council was planning to raise funds for the charity when they discovered their classmate was already collecting from family and friends. At that time, she had $134.

Mills visited the school and explained the challenge of raising money for research to find a cure for blood cancers that impact people of all ages.

“We’ve been through a lot,” said Sariah Hunter as she continued to carry around her box. “It’s fun to help other kids. I’m glad (we raised so much).”

During the March 28 celebration assembly, Dugger called up a student, who is a survivor of cancer. She also called up second-grade teacher Myrna Oquendo, who just completed a round of cancer treatments. She pointed out her own status as cancer survivor, too.

“Mrs. Dugger cares about others and wants to build character in children. They are giving to their community and to others,” Oquendo said. “Kids see this and they get excited and their parents get excited.”

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