Hope against cancer

By Michaela Gibson Morris/NEMS Daily Journal

You’re never too young, you’re never too old
To join in the fight, to be rather bold.
For cancer, heart disease and diabetes can’t stop you
You’ll eat your vegetables and exercise, too.
So come from Tupelo, Pontotoc, even Plantersville
For this year, there’s fun in HOPEville.

The 2010 Festival of Hope is pulling out the Cat in the Hat for a Dr. Seuss-inspired good time tonight. Organizers have discovered you’re never too young to join in the fight to improve life for local cancer, diabetes and heart disease patients.
“It touches so many people,” said Bobby Geno, who is Festival of Hope chairman.
The Rankin Elementary Challenge classes are participating as a team. The Plantersville School seventh-grade advanced reading program will perform a skit inspired by both Project Hope and a Dr. Seuss book.
Those aren’t the only kids who can get in on the act. Families and kids of all ages are invited to join the fun at the Festival of Hope today from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Tupelo Furniture Market, Building 5 on Coley Road in Tupelo.
“We try to make it something definitely family-oriented,” Geno said.
Along with inflatables and kids games, the Festival of Hope will continue the tradition of the Battle of the Badge between the Lee County Sheriff’s Department and the Tupelo Fire Department.
There’ll be no green eggs and ham for dinner. Hamburger and hot dog plates will be cooked on site by Barbecue by Jim. Survivors and teams have already earned their meals, but others can purchase dinner for $5.
Survivors of cancer, diabetes and heart disease will be recognized, and those who have lost the fight will be honored at the beginning of the night.
“We have some serious moments at the beginning,” Geno said. “Festival is designed to be a celebration of all the hard work.”
This year, 29 teams will celebrate their hard work on behalf of heart disease, cancer and diabetes patients.
“Every year, our goal is to raise $100,000,” Geno said.
The money will be distributed through a grant process to directly help needy patients and fund community education programs. Past grant recipients have included the patient assistance funds at North Mississippi Medical Center, Antone Tannehill Good Samaritan Free Clinic and Tupelo Community Cross Country Track.

Hopeful inspiration
Serendipity connected Onessa Mosby’s advanced reading class and Festival of Hope this year.
A class discussion about poetic elements in literature reintroduced the class to Dr. Seuss and his use of poetic, whimsical language in the books they had read as they were learning to read, Mosby said. About the same time, a friend of Mosby’s who is involved with Festival of Hope told her about the 2010 theme.
“It just happened naturally,” Mosby said. And she invited Geno to class in January to talk about the festival and the organization’s work with heart disease, cancer and diabetes.
The seventh-graders’ study was no elementary exercise. They fused information they gleaned from a Project Hope speaker, research on cancer, heart disease and diabetes with an analysis of Dr. Seuss’ use of language.
Mosby guided the project, making sure the students remained aligned with the curriculum, but she empowered them to make a lot of the choices in how they presented the results of their critical thinking, reading and writing skills.
“They analyzed Dr. Seuss, they connected their notes on Project Hope,” Mosby said. “They sat down and developed their own characters. It kind of blossomed from there.”
The class wrote a skit using the Dr. Seuss book “Do You Know How Lucky You Are?” as a base to create their work called “Do You Know How Blessed You Are?” which will be performed tonight at Festival of Hope.
“This has really let them shine,” said Mosby, who hopes to have a Plantersville team for Festival of Hope next year.

Creative challenge
Festival of Hope also provided a great classroom and community connection for the third-, fourth- and fifth-grade gifted students at Rankin Elementary in Tupelo. A community service project is part of the curriculum for the Challenge classes, said teacher Kay Roper.
“We wanted the things we did to stay in the community,” said Roper, who organized the team with her fellow Challenge teachers Sherry Willis and Judy Dunehew.
The students have really sunk their hands into the fundraising efforts. With assistance from art teacher Jamie Baker, the students made pottery Christmas ornaments that were fired in the school kiln and then finished with beading and copper wiring. The ornaments were sold to raise funds for Project Hope.
The students also each created their own T-shirt design for the team, Roper said. Fifth-grader Susannah Eidt drafted the piece that was ultimately chosen for the T-shirts.
Tonight the students will get to enjoy the fruits of their hard work with the other teams at the festival.
“It really has been a good project for us,” Roper said.

Click video to hear audio