Character and Advocacy Go Hand in Hand as Cherry Hill Schools Unite to Fight Diabetes
The Cherry Hill Public Schools is composed of about 11,270 students in 19 schools, grades Pre-K through 12. Generations choose to stay in Cherry Hill and raise their families there, in no small part because of the excellent schools. I, for one, grew up in the Cherry Hill Schools and returned to raise my own family here. Not only are Cherry Hill students academically successful, but they have a strong commitment to character and advocacy that spans all grade levels. We owe this climate of compassion and giving to our teachers, staff and administrators, who “walk the talk” when it comes to making a difference in the school community and the community at large.
Each year, the Cherry Hill Public Schools community collaborates to raise awareness and funds for a good cause at our annual Volley for Support volleyball tournament. Teachers from all of our schools face off in friendly competition for the evening-long, not-to-be-missed tournament. The brainchild of Kingston Elementary School physical education teacher Steven Redfearn and his wife and fellow elementary school teacher Kim, Volley for Support originated in 2004. Only six of our schools participated that inaugural year. Today, it is an event that truly brings our large district together with a sense of joy and accomplishment. Admission to the event is waived for spectators who buy and wear the event t-shirt. Besides the volleyball games, attendees enjoy food, fun zones for the kids, and raffle baskets. All proceeds benefit a different charity each year. Proceeds from the 2016 event went to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), an organization dedicated to raising awareness about and research funds for Type 1 (Juvenile) diabetes.
Prior to the tournament, our schools held daytime JDRF walks. Students raised funds at home and brought the money they collected to school prior to the walk. All students at every school were invited to walk regardless of their fundraising success. I had the great pleasure of participating in one such walk at Joyce Kilmer Elementary School on the chilly, windy afternoon of April 8, the date of Volley for Support. Members of our Board of Education, and Cherry Hill community members including representatives from local government, our police and our fire departments joined many of the walks as well. Kilmer had the distinction of selling 260 Volley for Support t-shirts prior to the event – a record among all schools in the district for the 12 years the event has taken place.
The enthusiastic support of the JDRF cause was bolstered by assemblies in our schools during the weeks leading up to Volley for Support. At the assemblies, our students learned about the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, the symptoms, what challenges the disease brings to daily life and how JDRF is working toward a cure. Some assemblies included silly “rewards” if fundraising goals were met, such as Jared Peltzman, principal at James Johnson Elementary School, getting “color dumped” with colorful paint on his hair, skin and clothing at an outdoor assembly. Regardless of the reward for participation, the JDRF cause resonated with many of our students and employees – and their eagerness to participate and donate to the organization was evidence of this connection.
Our repeated communication about Volley for Support on our school and district Facebook and Twitter pages, as well as the district app, website and weekly e-newsletter helped keep our community informed about fundraising progress, as well as when and where the tournament would take place. The excitement for the event grew as the date of the tournament drew closer.
Families attended Volley for Support in large numbers on April 8, cheering on the winning team of teachers from John A. Carusi Middle School. Of course, all participants and attendees realized that the real winners were those who cope with Type 1 diabetes. According to the Redfearns, more than $60,000 was raised for JDRF – a district record and more than double this year’s $25,000 goal.In a fun and healthy way, the Cherry Hill Public Schools was able to shed light on the challenges many of us, our friends and our family members face on daily basis with Type 1 diabetes. It’s a great privilege for all us to be able to take action toward advancing research and facilitating each other’s success in the face of challenges.