timberland boots roll top Archbishop O’Leary students join the battle aga
Hundreds of staff and students at Archbishop O’Leary high school took part in a Terry Fox Run with a twist last week.
In a personal and touching homage to their principal, Mary Lou Forest, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in July, 1700 teens and their teachers participated in what has been dubbed the Run for Forest, Run.
“Run For Forest, Run began as a joke, that sparked an idea, that just seemed to take root in the heart of this school,” says acting principal Tim Cusack.
Forest returned to the school Sept. 30 for the first time this year, to officially begin the walk. Laughter and greetings from staff and students filled the halls as she made her way to the football field.
The participating students and staff walked two kilometres, two by two,
according to their grade.
Eric Paonessa, 17, has been attending O’Leary for three years. He says students were shocked and horrified when they learned their principal had breast cancer.
“She’s really friendly. She’s very approachable and she cares about everyone,” says Paonessa. “We all just miss her.”
Paonessa is a member of O’Leary’s student union and helped plan the event. Along with donating money from their own pockets, students spent weeks raising pledge money and selling the “Run For Forest Run” T shirts for $20 apiece.
“Every cent goes to cancer research,” he says. “But it’s not about the money, it’s about raising awareness and supporting Mrs. Forest.”
Forest, who has just recently undergone a mastectomy and will begin chemotherapy sessions in the coming weeks, says the show of support has kept her thoughts positive.
“I am very touched, very humbled and very grateful,” she says.
The 55 year old had a surprise of her own for her students. She says she has known for a while she would cut her hair before the chemotherapy causes her to lose it.