MacArthur students help cancer patients


Students at Laura MacArthur Elementary School in Duluth are giving back to those in need.

The 80 students in Laura MacArthur's afterschool KEY Zone program donated Brave Boxes to cancer patients at St. Luke's on April 18. They chose to craft and fill the boxes as part of a service project for the True North Americorps Global Youth Service Day.

"I just want to tell all of you students how much you touched us here at St. Luke's. Your Brave Boxes, along with all the words of encouragement that you've given our patients, will definitely help them along their journey," said St. Luke's clinic manager Stacy Sandberg. "I feel so lucky that we have such compassionate hearts like yours in our community. We are so thankful for you and your kindness will never be forgotten."

The students' desire to help cancer patients came from something that hit close to home. A first-grader and preschooler lost their 37-year-old mom after a hard fought, year-and-a-half battle with colon cancer. When the KEY Zone students were asked what they wanted to do for Global Youth Service day, several students suggested helping people with cancer.

"It was an idea that came straight from the kids," said YMCA KEY Zone director Tracie Clanaugh. "That's what's great about this program. The kids get to help in their own communities wherever they see the need."

Seventy students raised $200 and were able to purchase 25 Brave Boxes. The students then decorated and filled the boxes with Kleenex, lip balms, lotions, socks, ginger tea, ginger candies and handwritten letters for cancer patients. A few parents helped students create "portacath pillows," small pillows that help cancer patients with ports in their chests keep seat belts away from their ports while riding in cars.

The students got ideas for items and learned more about cancer after a visit from Dr. Ross Perko, a pediatric and oncology doctor from Essentia Health.

"Dr. Perko told us lots of people who have cancer might not look like they are sick on the outside, but on the inside they feel bad because they are actually sick," said Ray, 8, a member of KEY Zone.

"Kids questions about cancer are always very unique. They're always such honest questions that they're sometimes more difficult to answer than adults. But they're such great questions. I left there very humbled. It was a wonderful experience," Perko said.

Mayor Emily Larson also attended the reception to share a few words thanking the students for their hard work.

"As your mayor and as somebody who shares this city with you, I want to say thank you. Because one of our biggest jobs as people in a community is to take care of each other," Larson said. "Because your generous and encouraging actions as kids, inspire us adults. It reminds us adults that we need to do more of that ourselves."