By KATHY CHANG
OLD BRIDGE — Longtime St. Ambrose parishioner Lois Cunningham received quite a surprise as a sea of students walked from St. Ambrose School to her home on Sept. 23 to sing to her, letting her know that she is not alone in her battle with cancer.
As the students sang, Cunningham, sitting in her wheelchair, sang along with the students.
“Do not be afraid, I am with you,” sang the students as Principal Theodore Kadela strummed the guitar.
The 200 or so students in grades pre-K to 8 at St. Ambrose School participated in the Kids Walking for Kids walkathon in honor of Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. With the help of the Old Bridge Police, students in grades 3-8 walked to Cunningham’s home, while the younger students walked around the school.
All the walkathon proceeds are donated to organizations that benefit children fighting cancer, including T&B Foundation, which provides patient pouches filled with fun activities and toys while the youngsters await treatment.
Kadela said this is the school’s second year participating in the walkathon. Added this year was the impromptu stop at Cunningham’s home on West Alton Place, which is about a two-mile trek to and from St. Ambrose.
Many of the students held signs that they made for the walk. Seventh graders Ashley Perez and Kailey Cogley held a banner that read: “Kids Walking for Kids: Bringing Awareness to Pediatric Cancer.”
Cunningham thanked the students and teachers for coming.
She shared with the students that she and her husband, Joe, have five children and her eldest son was one of the first graduates of St. Ambrose School.
“Do your best in school,” she advised the students, noting that all five of her children turned out well because of school.
Joe Cunningham said they were thrilled by the visit from the students. He said they had no idea the students were coming, which was kept secret by Father Jack Grimes, pastor at St. Ambrose Parish and Father Jack O’Kane, parochial vicar.
St. Ambrose School has a cancer survivor of its own. Tyler Sanzone, a kindergartner, was diagnosed with retinoblastoma, an eye cancer, when he was 4 months old.
“Now he just passed his five years of being cancer-free,” his mother Emily Sanzone said.
Sanzone said when her son was first diagnosed, he was sent to Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia where they learned about the T&B Foundation, a grassroots organization started by two mothers whose children were diagnosed with cancer.
“A lot of the children are not allowed to have food, and the technology can get you so far as you wait,” she said.
Sanzone said one of the pillars that the St. Ambrose School concentrates on is service to others, and the school participates in helping with a wide variety of organizations.
“Service is woven in the DNA of the students at St. Ambrose to give back,” she said. “This is a nice foundation for them to learn at a young age the importance of community service.”
Kadela said the school also participated in raising funds for the flood victims in Louisiana through the school’s Mini Vinnies program. He said the school has a Mini Vinnies chapter of the St. Vincent de Paul Society where students get together within their school to help those in need within their school and the local or international community.
Through the school’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program, a hydroponic garden was created to grow tomatoes, lettuce and more.
“The students learned in science how to grow and harvest the vegetables,” Kadela said. “A cooking club was formed to prepare the food, and the food was taken to St. Vincent de Paul in Perth Amboy to feed the people.”
An upcoming annual event is Trunk-or-Treat where the students bring in their leftover candy from Halloween and package the candy to send to military servicemen and women overseas.
For more information about the T&B Foundation, visit www.tandbfoundation.org.
Contact Kathy Chang at email@example.com.