In 2012, a teacher of Healthy Living at Lufkin Road Middle School in Apex, NC was battling melanoma. Marti Capaforte wanted to keep her illness private, but a few of her colleagues approached her with an idea about a school-wide cancer awareness event. Her co-workers wore purple t-shirts with the word “Hope” on the front, and Capaforte’s favorite saying on the back: “Have a great day on purpose!” Students began participating in activities which inspired cancer awareness. Posters on the facts and dangers of tanning beds and tobacco use adorned the hallways.
Toward the end of the year, the students enjoyed field day, one of Capaforte’s favorite student activities that the staff chose to bring back. This became the first “Hope Games.”
Melanoma eventually claimed Capaforte’s life, but her message and inspiration live on. A memorial garden sits in the front lawn of Lufkin Road Middle school and each year, students plant more trees in her memory.
Sara DeMarco was one of Capaforte's friends/colleagues that first formed the Hope games. Herself a melanoma and cervical cancer survivor, DeMarco continues to teach cancer awareness to her students (including my own children). Due to an unusual amount of inclement weather and lost instructional time in the winter of 2014, the Hope Games had to be cancelled this past year with the hope of it returning in 2015. However, DeMarco organized one week this past semester in her Healthy Living class that was still devoted to cancer awareness, including breast cancer, lung cancer (where all students signed a no smoking pledge), leukemia and melanoma. Each day, my kids came home with new information to share with me. Yes, even on melanoma day, my daughter (clad in her “Black is the New Pink” t-shirt) was excited to tell me about slip-slop-slap!
The students also had the opportunity to give back and donate to the American Cancer Society. Total donations added up to $1,467.84. I’m proud to report that my kids’ track/pod donated the most per kid with a track donation of $208.
The fact that Marti Capaforte was stricken with melanoma is tragic. However, her story has inspired one middle school in North Carolina to teach its students cancer awareness (including sun safety) and the joy of giving to help others. Thanks to Ms. DeMarco and the rest of the staff for teaching my children (and many others) a very important lesson for life.