Staff, students join fight against cancer

When Doug Mason was diagnosed with cancer last autumn, he surely could not have anticipated how the affection and support of hundreds of people would boost his recovery.

In a packed gym at D.W. Poppy Secondary on Thursday, the head of the school’s counselling department movingly expressed his gratitude for the money that students, teachers and staff raised for the Canadian Cancer Society in his name and that of Carolyn Marcotte, Poppy’s social studies and psychology teacher. She has also been stricken with the disease.

“The outpouring of the love of the kids from the time I got sick has been amazing,” Mason said, as he watched his colleagues have their heads shaved.

“The support was huge because I had this sense of love and support behind me and it kept me encouraged,” he said.

“The senior kids have been just awesome, with kind words and sending stuff, and raising funds that represent the fight against cancer,” Mason added.

Graeme Johnstone of the Poppy student council said that since Feb. 4, senior students have gone from one classroom to another collecting funds. The goal was to raise $5,000, and to boost the effort, staff members Dale Harrison, Paul Trattle, Lee Thompson, Tim Burns, Ehud Yaniv, Steve Penner, Russ Furse and principal Harold Krische agreed to have heads or beards shaved by staffers Bronwen Ferguson, Joanne Turpin and Vicki Forbes. Hundreds of Poppy students cheered and shouted their support from the bleachers of the dramnasium.

For special education teacher Yaniv, losing his hair wasn’t a big deal. “I’ve done it before, and it’s never been a problem,” he said.

But he drew the line at shaving his beard, dyed pink for the occasion. “I’ve had it since I was 16, and my wife likes it and I have to keep my wife happy, too,” he said.

While Mason is back at work after having his left kidney removed, Marcotte has just started treatment and is not expected back at Poppy until September.

Marcotte, who spoke to The Times from her home minutes after the event, was deeply moved when advised that the fundraising had topped $6,000.

“That’s brilliant,” she said. “Isn’t that wonderful?”

“Poppy is such a family of staff and students, and they are wonderful people,” she added, her voice breaking.

Marcotte said that the tremendous success of the event was due to the hard work and organizing skills of staffer Wendy Cook and student government members Kevin Huntington, Paul Kane, Scott Neufeld and Graeme Johnston.

“They did a phenomenal job of organizing and finding enough spirit at Poppy to make the whole activity such a success,” she said.

Barbara Eyles of the B.C. Cancer Foundation has attended many events that raise funds for research or provide services for patients. She found the Poppy experience had incredible energy.

“There’s a wonderful outpouring of affection and support for the teachers, and obviously an effort to support other families with cancer,” she said.

Grade 11 students Aimie Sadler and Niki Oster had front row seats. “This is a great idea. It’s entertainment and it’s for a good cause,” said Sadler.

An event like this can’t help but boost school spirit, said Oster.

“And it shows teenagers care and can support a cause,” she said.

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