It should come as no surprise to anyone in the Smyrna-Clayton community that when someone is in need that the community rallies together to help that person. This was no different when staff and students at Smyrna High School learned one of their own had cancer.
Earlier this month freshman student Colby Atkinson was diagnosed with leukemia. Since then Smyrna High School staff and students have been raising money through a new fundraiser – Stick It to Cancer.
Teacher Maura Schafer has helped to spearhead the fundraiser.
"We just wanted to do something quick to help Colby," Schafer said. "A lot of teachers have been donating money, presents, Wawa gift cards and more. It definitely has been a presence in our school."
Colby's mom, Virginia, is a teacher at Smyrna High School. She said the support from the Smyrna High School community has been overwhelming.
"The kids have been very, very supportive of Colby. It means a lot to him even if he doesn't show it," Atkinson said. "We do greatly appreciate it."
An unexpected illness
The Atkinson family first started noticing something was wrong with Colby before Thanksgiving. A left tackle on the freshmen football team, Colby felt some fatigue and had a low grade fever. The doctor believed Colby had a virus. But then blood work was done and it was ultimately determined Colby had more than a virus….he has leukemia. More specifically Colby has T-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). ALL is the most common type of childhood leukemia affecting about 75 percent of kids with this form of cancer.
Atkinson said the prognosis for Colby is good.
The family is currently up at A.I. DuPont Hospital and probably will be through the holidays. Atkinson and her husband have been staying at the Ronald McDonald House, which she said has been helpful. Atkinson and her husband also have a younger son.
Atkinson said that for the most part Colby wasn't suffering from any of the other symptoms of leukemia but he had actually been sick about two months. Doctors attribute the lack of symptoms to Colby's active lifestyle. Not only does Colby play football, but he plays baseball as well.
"His body was able to disguise that something is wrong because he didn't have any other health conditions before," she said.
So far Colby feels OK, but the family is hoping the hardest part is behind them. The family is taking his treatment day-to-day.
Standing up to cancer
While several teachers and groups have been finding ways to donate to Colby and the Atkinson family, one official Stick It to Cancer fundraiser was held last week. Students were able to vote for two teachers they would like to see taped to the wall. Students paid to vote and then paid again on Friday to actually tape teachers Maura Schafer and Tim Dorsey to the wall in the cafeteria. The duct tape was donated by Smyrna Community Hardware.
Schafer said over $300 was raised in the voting alone. As of Friday afternoon, Smyrna High School employee Ginger Barkley said nearly $1,200 had been raised for the Atkinson family.
More fundraisers will be planned in the future.
Atkinson said she's so grateful for the community supporting her family. She's also encouraging people to donate blood and platelets because those donations are helping her son and others.
"We're just so blessed with all of this support," she said. "We just want to do what we can to give back."
Email Jennifer Dailey at firstname.lastname@example.org.