Four hundred and fifty Catholic Memorial School students in grades 7 to 12 boarded nine school buses this past Sunday morning, to walk in the American Cancer Society's Making Strides Walk Against Breast Cancer.
Behind them was a busload of supportive moms and dads, CM parents who found inspiration in their sons joining together for such a cause. And just as many faculty, nearly 50, joined the "sea of red" shirts along the Charles River Esplanade on a drizzly October Sunday.
Behind the students, too, was a six-week fundraising campaign that has to date resulted in more than $30,000 in funds raised. Students created accounts on the ACS website, collected cash donations during lunch periods and held a special collection at the school’s annual “Olympic Day” event.
On Olympic Day, teacher Chris Boyle and senior Thomas Brooks volunteered to have their full heads of hair shaved for a price: $900 raised that very day. CM has participated in every walk since 2005, when a student-led service initiative brought a vanful of Knights to the riverfront.
The total funds this year will likely surpass that of the 2011 Walk, which earned CM first place in the "High School Challenge" versus 30 rival schools from across the state. They came from students like eighth-grader Brendan Spillane of Roslindale, who alone raised more than $1,400, and junior Jake Johnson of Randolph, who raised close to $1,100.
Leading the CM delegation on Sunday was cancer survivor and the school’s Campus Ministry director Deb McCourt, who accepted the High School Challenge plaque on the Hatchshell stage from ACS New England CEO Peg Camp.
After McCourt spoke, radio personality and walk spokesperson Candy O’Terry encouraged the student body to sing the school fight song, and they obliged.
Also leading the school was Tara Shuman, wife of Brian '98, who formed her own walk team but soon merged with CM's when the student body took up her cause as a rallying cry.
"A little over a month ago I was diagnosed," Shuman told the audience. "Three weeks ago I had a double mastectomy. And a week ago I started chemotherapy. Even though I'm feeling a little sick today I want to walk with all of you."
Of the students' involvement, which included printing her name on each of the 500 t-shirts made for the occasion, Shuman remarked, "Absolutely unbelievable. I am forever grateful."
“Tara’s involvement in our efforts this year put a face on this very real disease for our students,” said CM President Paul Sheff. “And unfortunately, there are too many women and families in our community affected by this disease.”