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Meet Jenny, a 15 year old student in Chesterfield County, VA. Jenny was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer, and was undergoing treatment locally. 

As one of Jenny’s 9th grade teachers, I was searching for a way to help. Other students at her school proposed a fundraiser, and I joined in. I challenged the students: ”Raise $5000 and I will shave my head!”

The students showed amazing tenacity, creativity, and most of all, compassion. They organized car washes, benefit concerts, spaghetti dinners, benefit nights at Burger King, as well as selling “Shamrocks” for Jenny. See the wall of shamrocks below (and this wasn’t even the end of the fundraiser!) By the time it was done, the shamrocks extended another 10′ wide, and included another group of “orange” shamrocks, designating those who had donated over $200 each. There were several of those shamrocks!!!! 

Jennys wall

Within one month, the students had come close to the $5000 mark. The next to the last day before the deadline, we were still nearly $800 short, though. Somehow, the students and faculty of the school pulled through, and by the next afternoon had more than our goal. 

So, on March 28, the school had an assembly, and Jenny came back to school for the 1st time to help assist in shaving my head. Here’s a picture of me (Bonnie Keller) and Jenny just after the head shaving.

shaved head

At that point we had raised over $5400!!  

But the students did not stop!!After that, the students held a spaghetti dinner at the local Ruritan Club, and held band concerts and car washes. The compassion these students showed was incredible!!! 

jenny check
(Jenny with her “check” for $5000)

Update – 9/17/02

Jenny returned to school on Monday, September 16, 2002!!  While she still has a ways to go, she looks fantastic, and is once again flashing that smile seen in her pictures. Meadowbrook welcomed her back, and we are glad to have her amongst us again. We have missed her, and are very grateful that she’s back with us again!! 

While we don’t know what the future holds for Jenny, we do know that we are going to keep going and offer as much chance as possible. Her friends and fellow students have rallied around this cheerful young lady to provide a network of love and support for her and the family. But the financial needs are greater than we can meet – even now. 

Update – 12/29/02
Most of you don’t know the story last year about my student, Jenny Moss. Jenny was the 15-year-old in my first period class who was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer this time last year. My challenge to the school to help raise funds for her was successful, and my bald head was a testament to how wonderful teenagers CAN be.  During Jenny’s treatment, I was also her homebound schooling teacher, so I saw more of her struggle than anyone else at school.

We thought Jenny’s battle was mostly over when she rejoined us at school back in September. Though she was on an unconventional schedule of 3 classes at home, and 3 classes at school, it was such a delight to see her in the halls acting like a teenager. Back in early November Jenny came into my room to be the 1st person to sign my yearbook from last year, which had just arrived. I was thrilled that she was the 1st to sign it, and so glad that she looked so much better.

The following week, Jenny’s family took her to Disneyworld in FL to celebrate her 16th birthday, and had a week of unforgettable fun. Jenny seemed perfectly normal, aside from her swollen face from the steroids.  Things were looking up.

November 11, though, was not so good. Jenny began having seizures again, for the first time in months. She never returned to school. Jenny has been in and out of the hospital ever since. I went to the Pediatric ICU where she was a couple of weeks ago, and held her hand and talked to her softly, letting her know how much she was missed at school. The news was that three more tumors had been found, and the news a few days later that malignant cells had been found in her spinal fluid.

Jenny came home for Christmas last week, and her 4 sisters and 1 brother re-arranged the living room to make room for a bed for her there. She was too weak to climb the stairs. Christmas was good, and she was alert and happy, singing her favorite songs and enjoying Christmas.

My phone rang tonight from a member of Jenny’s family whom I’d never met. He was calling to ask me to come over to see Jenny, as time is short for her. I found her family huddled around her, her sisters laying in bed with her, holding her hands and softly kissing them. The music in the background was upbeat, but the mood was definitely less so.  I took turns with her sisters sitting beside her, holding her hand, and talking to her as she occasionally opened her eyes and tried to speak. Lady, the dog that her parents bought for her over the summer, wanted to be beside Jenny, too, and did so when she could. Jenny knows that she is loved, and that is hopefully a comfort to her in her dazed state. We don’t know when she will pass on, but it is close at hand.

In the 2 hours I spent there, the funeral home came to make final arrangements with her parents. There will be no formal burial, viewing, etc., but they do want to plan a memorial service so that the many members of the school and community who have helped this family through can say their last goodbyes, but more importantly, to share in the many joys Jenny brought to everyone who knew her.

I said goodbye to Jenny tonight, for I will not see her again here. I did tell her that I will see her soon – and I mean that. I don’t know where, or when, but I know that sometime soon I will see Jenny somewhere – it may be that I hear her sparkly laughter in the wind, or I see her face in the eyes of a newborn baby. I don’t know. But I am certain that I will never be the same teacher I was before Jenny came into my classroom. And I hope that the experience of losing a classmate, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, and a student has made the rest of us in her life understand just a little bit better what love is all about.

Update – 1/5/03

Jenny passed this morning, many days after what we thought would be her last. She will be sadly missed by her family, friends, and teachers. I, for one, will cherish that inscription in my yearbook, and try to remember the bright smiling girl who was part of my “smurflings”.