The Challenge youth group at St. Mary Parish in Oak Ridge left St. Mary School’s Spanish teacher “in awe” after the group raised nearly $2,800 to help her with medical bills as she battles cancer.
Darlene Adams was diagnosed with stage 3C ovarian cancer two years ago. The Challenge girls group, which includes a number of St. Mary students, was looking for an apostolic activity and thought of helping Mrs. Adams, 32, by holding a series of fundraisers.
The effort was capped with the presentation of a check for $2,797.21 to Mrs. Adams at an all-school assembly April 2.
“I’m just in awe of what these children did,” Mrs. Adams said. “I’ve always felt since the first day I walked in here that these kids are really something special, and I’ve really felt like a family around here. What they did meant so much to me—all the work they put in, just for me because they wanted to do something for me.”
Mrs. Adams said “wow” when she thought of the students.
“I love these children. They’re wonderful, and I really hate that I can’t be here five days a week. It bothers me because I want to be here with the kids. They’re great and I feel very blessed to have them in my life.”
Mrs. Adams has treatment every three weeks, where she is given three chemotherapies at once.
“It makes me pretty sick, so I have to take a couple of days off, so I’m usually only here about three days a week,” she said.
St. Mary students Lauren Robson and Catelyn Krings talked about how the idea to help Mrs. Adams got started.
“We noticed that she looked sick, and she wasn’t doing well, and a few weeks later she told us that she had ovarian cancer, so we felt sorry for her,” Lauren said. “We got together and said we should do something for her, and we decided on a walk at first, but then we decided on roller skating because anyone could do it.”
The girls raised more money during the roller-skating event.
“At the Roll for the Cure, we sold bracelets that were teal because teal is the color of ovarian cancer, like pink is the color for breast cancer,” Katelyn said. “We had a bake sale, and all the money went to Mrs. Adams, and we did a raffle and sold the raffle tickets for a dollar each. We raffled off a lot of soda and candy, but there was a foosball table, and there were a lot of fun things.”
Margaret Merrill, the youth leader at St. Mary Parish, said the fundraising effort has “picked up the whole school.”
“The whole school has been, I think, overflowing with joy and love for Mrs. Adams and for one another and wanting to pull together as a team,” she said.
Challenge is a middle school program for girls, Mrs. Merrill noted.
“It’s apostolic in its nature,” she said, “and so when we came up with the Roll for the Cure, some of the young girls were talking about their teacher at school, and so we opened it to the parish and to the public as well, and brought it into the Challenge program, and we decided that we could do service right here in our very own community and reach out and do the things that Christ calls us to do and to allow these young girls to use the gifts they have and change and do things in their own community.
“So we took their desire of roller skating, and we turned it into a fundraiser and allowed the girls to brainstorm by making posters and flyers and bake-sale items. They put together raffle items to raffle off, and then they sold tickets at the roller rink, counted people as they came in, and collected money. It was all done by the middle school program with just the support of the adults like myself helping them pull it off.”
Sister Marie Blanchette Cummings, OP, the St. Mary principal, called the fundraising idea “beautiful.”
“It was totally their idea,” she said. “The Challenge girls from the St. Mary’s Church youth group wanted to come up with an apostolic service project, and they chose‑most of the girls are in the school‑so they chose their teacher, Mrs. Darlene Adams, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer two years ago.
“They chose to raise money to help her with her medical bills, so they designed the posters. They interviewed Mrs. Adams to find out what it meant to have ovarian cancer; they created posters; they decided to order the bracelets and sell them; they advertised the selling of the bracelets over the PA system every afternoon. . . . It was a beautiful witness of putting their faith into practice.”
At the assembly, Mrs. Merrill told the student body that “you all are so capable of doing so much for Jesus.”
“He’s not just calling the older people like myself, but you at your young age can do so much,” she said. “This whole thing happened not because I dreamed up something, but because the young girls in Challenge said, ‘What can we do?’”
Mrs. Merrill thanked parents “who didn’t mind us throwing in extra meeting times” and parishioners who came “down to the office writing checks.”
“So you are loved a lot, Darlene,” she said. “Thank you for being a part of our family.”
All of the Challenge girls came up on stage to present the oversized check to Mrs. Adams, who also received a prayer blanket during the assembly.
“I would just like to say how much I love everyone so much, and I feel so blessed,” Mrs. Adams said. “Thank you so much.”
Sister Marie Blanchette closed the assembly by thanking everyone present.
“$2,800 is truly amazing, and even if all you could do was buy a bracelet, you helped to spread love and to let Mrs. Adams know that you were supporting her in her fight against cancer,” she said. “I love what Mrs. Merrill said, that you are never too young to make a difference, and look what we did. So thank your parents for bringing you to the roller rink and for buying the bracelets and most of all for praying for Mrs. Adams healing.”