The Ashland Beacon
A show of strength is sometimes not noticeable to those around you. Sometimes strength isn't for the benefit of others, but the benefit of your inner peace. No one exhibits strength more than a breast cancer survivor. Breast cancer survivors are some of the strongest individuals you will ever meet. The strength of a breast cancer survivor is like no other. It is a strength that is both profound and inspiring. It is a particular type of strength that one does not come by easily and once earned, is not easily forgotten. It is a strength that can only be brought into focus by those with indomitable wills. It is a type of strength that should not only be celebrated but respected, and that's precisely what various schools across the area have been doing this past week.
The students and staff of the Ashland Independent Schools system have been hard at work these last few weeks gathering supplies for their "Comfy Chemo Comfort Bags," donated to chemotherapy patients within the community. Kourtney Hieneman, a Blazer High School teacher, helps organize and lead the program. The program started in 2010 and has just continued to grow and thrive. The formation of this group holds a special place in Heineman’s heart, "My Mom, Lea Anne Hall, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, and at the time, my Principal Derek Runyon had a sister-in-law (Gina Runyon) that had also battled cancer, and she and a group of her friends had started to put together these bags. While receiving chemotherapy, Gina met many people who spent hours on end at treatment alone. Seeing others without support gave Gina the idea to put together Chemo Comfort Bags for patients in need of comfort. These bags provide patients with many items that help ease the discomfort of receiving chemotherapy often alone. To honor Gina and my mom, Lea Anne, we decided to do our own Comfort Chemo Bags at Paul Blazer High School."
To this day, the Ashland Independent School District has donated over 1200 bags to local patients within the community. "Students and staff provide the items for the bags, and many students come together to pack the bags and deliver them to our hospitals. Donations come from classes, clubs, sports teams, teachers, and students from the elementary, middle, and high school who make donations for the items to put in the Chemo Comfort Bags." Noted Hieneman. These bags would not have been possible if not for all the generous donations given to this cause throughout October. Since October, several sports teams have opted to waive the cost of admission into their games and ask that you bring a donation item for the bags. This past week, Ashland Middle School and Russell Middle School girls’ basketball teams joined forces during one of their scheduled games and donned pink to honor those who have been or are going through breast cancer. Spectators also showed in pink for middle school's "Pink Out Games. “Between the seventh and eighth-grade games, both teams handed out white carnations to all breast cancer survivors in the gymnasium.
The comfy chemo comfort bags consist of a reusable bag, blanket, fuzzy socks, lotion, hand sanitizer, mints or gum, tissues, chapstick, magazines, or other activity books. "This year, the Comfort Chemo Bags were donated in honor of my mom, Lea Anne Hall, who lost her battle with cancer in June of this year, and in honor of Gina Runyon, who lost her battle with cancer in September of 2015. Our very first Chemo Comfort Bag of 2022 has already been delivered to Lori Beth Mays. Lori Beth is currently a member of our Central Office Staff and a former Middle School Vice Principal. She is currently undergoing chemotherapy for her recent breast cancer diagnosis. Lori Beth is married to Jason Mays, a high school staff member, and our boys’ basketball head coach. They have two children, Jayse and Reagan, who are students in the Ashland Independent School System," stated Hieneman.
On Friday night, fans gathered at Putnam stadium to watch an all-out brawl between Ashland and East Carter and take part in a fight far superior to any football game. Looking around the stands of Putnum stadium, all you could see was a sea of pink on both sides. Both teams not only showed up to fight on the fields with one another but also to join in on the fight against breast cancer. "Our Pink Out game this past Friday at Putnam Stadium was dedicated to all of our faculty and staff currently battling breast cancer or a survivor." noted Hieneman. At this time, anyone battling breast cancer or who had already kicked breast cancers butt was honored during this PINK OUT homecoming game. Several Chemo Comfort bags were handed out at this time, and there wasn't a dry eye in the stadium. Hieneman added, "There are so many of our faculty, staff, and students who have been affected by cancer, whether it's a grandparent, a parent, a spouse, or a family friend. Their fight is our fight, and the Tomcats are standing together and standing up against cancer."