By Chris Kieffer
MOOREVILLE – Five years ago, a Mooreville Elementary School teacher started an annual event to remind the school’s educators of the importance of being screened for breast cancer.
On Monday, Jennifer Rooker was honored at the function she created.
The school held its annual “Pink Tea,” in which it recognized six staff members and one parent for their battles with the disease. Two of them – Rooker and parent Ann May – were given special emphasis as they are currently fighting the cancer.
“When you get that support behind you, it makes you strive harder,” said Rooker, whose cancer was in remission when she started the event to raise awareness. It returned in 2011.
The school’s staff members gathered in the library at the end of the day, drank pink lemonade and ate together. During the week, staff and students will raise money for a community member who is undergoing cancer treatment.
The goal is to collect more than $1,000. In past years, they’ve donated money to Women First and to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Leigh Ray, a fifth-grade science and social studies teacher who organized this year’s event, said it took on a special significance because of Rooker’s fight.
“It does have more of a meaning,” Ray said. “We are reminded every day what we are missing because part of our team is gone.”
Rooker and May wore crowns and pink feather boas during the festivities. May’s daughter, AliBeth, is a first-grader at the school.
Her husband, Greg, is an assistant football coach at Mooreville High School.
“I’m just speechless,” said May, who recently completed chemotherapy and will have surgery in two weeks. “It is overwhelming how supportive the entire community has been for my whole family.”
Rooker, who teaches fifth-grade special education inclusion, has taken this year off of teaching while she gets treatment.
She expects to return next year.
“You are proud they continued what we started, but I’m not surprised because that is the type of people we have at Mooreville,” she said.